Dundee play-off win at Kilmarnock seals precious Premiership promotion reward and season turnaround for Charlie Adam

Dundee enjoyed a final, fruitful flourish to their season at Rugby Park. A run of late form which saw them secure second place on the last day of the league campaign has now brought the precious reward of top-flight football.

All’s well that ends well, and that’s certainly the case with Dundee. The Dens Park side were last after the first weekend, when they lost 6-2 to Hearts. Skipper Charlie Adam, a Dundee fan in boyhood, recently said they had used the shame felt at this result as motivation. He vowed to lead his team to promotion and he has done.

Tommy Wright had not planned on taking his side into the second-tier, but that is what has unfolded. When the Kilmarnock manager was appointed, they were tenth.

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In the opinion of many pundits, Dundee needed an early goal to settle themselves. In the event, they got two, which proved a profound and ultimately devastating blow to the home side’s hopes of avoiding the drop. Wright’s team could not recover despite Kyle Lafferty’s penalty reducing the deficit to one on the night – and two in terms of aggregate score.

Dundee's Charlie Adam and manager James McPake at full time during a Scottish Premiership play-off final second leg match between Kilmarnock and Dundee at the BBSP Stadium, Rugby Park, on May 24, 2021, in Kilmarnock, Scotland. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Kilmarnock will play second-tier football next season for the first time in 28 years with only the prospect of an Ayrshire derby to comfort them.

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The boos at half-time said it all. Wright had already made his first substitution well before that point. Left-back Brandon Haunstrup, who scored what had been expected to be such a crucial late goal in the first leg, made way for attacker Danny Whitehall after only 32 minutes.

Wright had to try something. Dundee were succeeding in smothering his side, as they managed to do for much of the first leg.

Dundee's Lee Ashcroft (L) and Danny Mullen at full time during a Scottish Premiership play-off final second leg match between Kilmarnock and Dundee at the BBSP Stadium, Rugby Park, on May 24, 2021, in Kilmarnock, Scotland. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)â€(R)

James McPake was winning the tactical battle. His only change was at full-back – Cammy Kerr moved to replace the injured Christie Elliott, with Jordan Marshall coming in at left back. Danny Mullen reprised his running-until-he-drops role up front.

The Kilmarnock defence once again looked shaky. Dundee could afford to attack on the break and this is how they sourced their opener. Adam booted clear, Haunstrup made a mess of a header under pressure from Mullen, and McMullan stepped in. He drove at goal before playing in Mullen, who swept the ball into the far corner of Colin Doyle’s net. Wright will have noted with some disgust that the move started deep in Dundee’s half, from a Killie throw-in.

Dundee had taken only slightly longer to open the scoring than five days earlier, when they struck after five minutes. Here it was seven.

And it got worse, far worse, for Killie four minutes later. This was perhaps the worst of their defensive lapses. Lee Ashcroft, Dundee’s main threat at set-pieces, was left unmarked at Paul McGowan’s corner. The defender took full advantage to head home his seventh goal of the season from just inside the six yard box.

Dundee midfield lynchpin Charlie Adam (c) celebrates with team mates after the Scottish Premiership Playoff Final 2nd Leg between Kilmarnock and Dundee at Rugby Park on May 24, 2021 in Kilmarnock, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Dundee might have scored a third when Jordan McGhee’s header bashed back off the bar. They felt they needed another to completely kill off the tie and Killie’s response, though belated, demonstrated why. Lafferty finally shook off the superb Dundee centre-half partnership of Liam Fontaine and Ashcroft to convert a penalty after Rory McKenzie had been felled by a clumsy challenge by Dundee goalkeeper Adam Legzdins.

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