Twenty-four years ago today, Dundee secured their last victory over Rangers at Dens Park. Remarkably, the 4-3 win remains their last over either side of the Old Firm at home.
Those with long memories will remember it was a result that was attributed to derring-do. Indeed, the then manager of the newly promoted side, Simon Strainrod, afterwards noted that his side had gone for Rangers’ jugular – “and ripped it out”.
It was a very different tactic adopted by Dundee on Saturday against Rangers, who are themselves still finding their feet back in the top flight. It was difficult to fathom Dundee’s timidity, particularly given what happened when Paul Hartley switched to two strikers, having replaced the lone, toiling front man Rory Loy with Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Yordi Teijsse.
Prior to the second-half turnaround, it was Rangers who had displayed all the panache. It was Rangers who had shown the aggression – perhaps a little too much of it in the case of Harry Forrester, who scored the game’s opening goal with a brilliant half-volley sent beyond Scott Bain.
But while he was the central subject of post-match discussions, it was not because of this piece of opportunism. Rather, it was his ability to avoid being sent off that was the chief talking point.
Only Craig Thomson can shed light on why Rangers manager Mark Warburton was the one who sensibly cut short the player’s involvement, when really it should have been the referee.
Forrester was booked for a challenge on Darren O’Dea just after half-time but then escaped being penalised again for two further late tackles on Cammy Kerr and Michael Duffy, both of which were arguably worse.
Even though Kenny Miller (pictured inset) scored his first Scottish top-flight goal for 2,057 days, he accepted having to first talk about Forrester’s eventful day.
Miller himself was replaced just after the hour mark after scoring what proved the game’s winner following a wonderfully flowing move down Rangers’ left involving Barrie McKay and Lee Wallace. Miller swept the latter’s cutback beyond Bain.
But a header against the run of play by the impressive Mark O’Hara combined with Forrester’s rashness meant Miller was left to fret on the bench. “I was off the park but I told Davie Weir to get Harry off,” he recalled. “When he loses the ball he’s quick to try and get it back. But you can’t dive into tackles when you’re on a booking.”
Warburton later claimed they were planning to replace Forrester with Michael O’Halloran in any case. But doing so when they did, with more than 20 minutes left and the midfielder sailing ever closer to the wind, was certainly prudent.
Duffy, the last victim of Forrester’s hat-trick of mistimed tackles, complained that Dundee were denied the opportunity to target an equaliser, and perhaps more, against ten men. “It would have changed the game,” he said.
In the event, Rangers held out. Given the way the visitors started, it was concerning from their point of view that there was ever any doubt they would collect all three points from their first league trip to Dens for 11 years.
According to Miller, the victory proved a lot of things about the current Rangers side. He knows their credentials as title contenders would have been questioned had they failed to win for the second successive weekend on their return to the top flight. “If we hadn’t won then a lot of things would have been levelled at us in terms of challenging for the league,” he said.
“For me, all week I was thinking ‘we need to win, we need to win’. We’ve done it. We’re not too happy with the way we went about the job in the second half but we’re delighted with the three points.
“We all appreciated the fact we were disappointed in the result against Hamilton and to start the league without winning in two would have been a disaster for me.
“We got the three points and go down the road happy-ish in terms of the result. But performance-wise we know we can still be better.”