Having picked up plaudits aplenty since his arrival at Dens Park from Cowdenbeath in 2014, Stewart again looks hungry to enjoy another productive campaign. His contribution on Saturday was game-changing – not only banging in the goals but also being a catalyst for a lot of the good things that Paul Hartley’s men served up. If there is a cloud to this silver lining it is that with the whole of August still to come, the transfer window is far too wide open for both the Dundee management team and the club’s supporters’ liking – earning the match ball is always a good way of drawing attention to a player and Stewart already has plenty of admirers.
Hartley, who, like everyone else who took in this game, observed that his side were not at their best in the opening 45 minutes but turned it around spectacularly on the resumption, admitted that Stewart would be a difficult act to replace if he were lured away. As for the player himself, his grounded approach to both the game and any emerging speculation suggests that the Dundee fans can at least rest assured that he will not be prone to distraction from their immediate task of trying to ensure qualification to the last 16 of the Betfred Cup.
“I’ve been out injured and I felt I was a wee bit rusty in the first half. It wasn’t good enough,” said Stewart. “Both personally and the whole team – we weren’t good enough. So a few words were said at half-time and we sorted it out in the second half and we played some good stuff.”
On what might or might not unfold by the closure of the window he was adamant –“I just want to try and ignore it and do my best for Dundee. I’ve got another year on my contract and as long as I’m here I’ll give it 110 per cent every game.
“I was probably one of the boys who arrived here that wasn’t expected to have done what I have, coming from Cowdenbeath and being part-time. After my first season here I had people questioning if I could do the same again and I proved them wrong. I just want to keep on doing that.”
Stewart set the ball rolling for Dundee with an opening goal that was a combination of the striker’s ability to deliver testing set-pieces and a lapse by Dumbarton goalkeeper Mark Brown, as a curling free-kick from the edge of the box drifted into the net. However, that was as good as it got in the first half for the hosts as defensive hesitancy led to both the visitors’ centre-backs, Frazer Wright and Gregor Buchanan, getting on the scoresheet to give the Sons a shock lead.
It needed an early riposte after the half-time cuppa to silence the grumblings from the Dens Park stands and Dundee did precisely that. Kane Hemmings started what was to become a bit of rout and then Darren O’Dea put Hartley’s men ahead again with a thundering header. Two composed finishes by Stewart completed his hat-trick and Hemmings scored his second late on for good measure.