So much for the managerial bounce. The start to Jim McIntyre’s rein in charge of Dundee was more a case of the same old failings that ultimately caused his predecessor Neil McCann to lose his job, falling with a resounding thud into his in-tray.
The new man will have many priorities to deal with, but one of the very first will surely be trying coach his players how to better deal with set-pieces. Remarkably, all the goals scored by this phenomenally effective Livingston side came from a hat -trick of free kicks and corner.
People might stereotype what the West Lothian side are all about – but it still doesn’t stop them steamrollering opponents. On and on they go, now sitting in fourth place in the Ladbrokes Premiership, four points off the top and on a run of eight games unbeaten.
In the circumstances it was always going to be a tough task for McIntyre to turn the ailing Dundee ship around against such an irresistible force, but the manner of the goals they conceded was, not surprisingly, a source deep concern to the new incumbent.
“In a nutshell we didn’t defend set plays,” bemoaned McIntyre. “We highlighted Livingston’s threat before the game. You’ve got to stand up and be counted when it comes to man-to-man defending and we’ve not done that. We’ve been punished four times – it’s not good enough. I won’t accept that. They (set plays) are a major part of the game.”
As if confirmation were needed of that very point, Livingston manager Gary Holt could hardly conceal his pride at the way his players just
keep on delivering when it comes to free-kicks, corners and long throws.
“We had some great set plays,” he said. “You ask people to work on it at training and we’re fortunate that we’ve got guys that are prepared to go in and get hurt. We scored good goals at good times today. It’s the one area you can work on religiously to try to get right and fortunately today we got it very right.”
The personnel in the dugout may have seen a significant change, but when it came to what happened on the field of play there were shades of Groundhog Day for Dundee. A solid enough start, a few decent openings squandered and then a defensive collapse undoing it all.
The Dens Park men actually created the best chance of the game in the early stages with Kenny Miller spurning a glorious chance to noise up the home support after his short spell as player-manager at the Tony Macaroni Arena as he sent a curling shot just wide.
Livingston, however, were soon the dominant force in terms of both possession and threats. After probing with some intent they made the breakthrough in a fashion that must have been crushing in its simplicity for the onlooking McIntyre. Everyone should have known what was coming but when Keaghan Jacobs hit a straightforward free-kick goalwards and the head of the towering Declan Gallagher directed it into the net. Easy as that.
What could be more deflating? Well, probably conceding a near identical goal just on the brink of half-time. It was so similar to their first that the only part of the description that needed changing was to credit Livingston skipper Craig Halkett with the header – the free-kick once again being supplied by Jacobs.
It meant what might have been a regrouping exercise for McIntyre and his backroom team during the interval was now in reality a damage limitation exercise. In fairness they were competitive enough afterwards without ever looking like they had the craft and incisiveness to punch any holes in the typically resolute Livingston defence. The hosts meanwhile seemed to be playing well within themselves, yet somehow they still managed to add another couple of goals to cruelly underline the chasm between where these two sides stand playing-wise at moment.
Their third came from yet another free-kick, but this was the most embarrassing of them all for the visitors’ defence, with Steven Lawless hitting an effort that barely seemed to carry any menace but somehow drifted into the net.
Holt’s men weren’t finished. Substitute Steven Lawson sent over a corner which Alan Lithgow directed into the net in near desultory fashion to leave McIntyre with a busy in-tray.