Alloa Athletic 0 - 3 Dundee: Title within grasp

Christian Nade settled Dundee nerves. Picture: SNS
Christian Nade settled Dundee nerves. Picture: SNS
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SO THE pendulum swings in Dundee’s favour again, and with just one game left to play in the dizzying race for the Championship title perhaps this has been the decisive twist.

Scorers: Dundee; Nade 41; MacDonald 71 pen; Beattie 87

At Recreation Park

The giddy supporters of the Dens Park side, who swarmed on to the pitch at full-time after this ultimately comprehensive victory, certainly seemed to think so, but Paul Hartley and his men will surely be more wary – not least because next week it is their turn to take on a Dumbarton side that did them such a favour yesterday by trouncing promotion rivals Hamilton.

Yet, setting aside events elsewhere, this was a hugely impressive win for Dundee – as professional and assured as a manager could hope for when the lines between winning automatic promotion and falling into the play-off lottery are so narrow.

“It’s three points and takes it into the last game,” Hartley calmly observed afterwards.

“I thought we were outstanding today. It’ll be a full house next week and a high-pressure game so it’ll be down to how the players cope with it. But just like today we’ll try to keep them relaxed and concentrating on trying to win the game without worrying about what’s happening elsewhere.”

That last part will be easier said than done as this match was regularly punctuated with bursts of wild cheering from jubilant Dundee supporters as news of favourable twists in the scoreline in the Dumbarton versus Hamilton game spread like wildfire.

Having said that, Hartley and his backroom team clearly played a blinder in lifting the morale amongst a group of players which must have been on the floor just seven days previously following that shock defeat by Morton.

There were few signs of any inhibition or tension in their ranks as they went at their part-time opponents with a brisk confidence from the off yesterday.

Christian Nade’s physical presence and nous around the penalty box set him apart in an opening 45 minutes where all the visitors’ most plausible chances came his way. Having scorned one with a snatched volley and been denied with another thanks to a brilliant block by the feet of Alloa goalkeeper Scott Bain, it was third time lucky for the Frenchman as he rose above the home rearguard to power a header into the net from a Willie Dyer corner as half time approached.

It was just about deserved on the balance of play at this stage but Alloa, who were looking for points to annul any prospect of falling into the relegation play-off place, were far from out of things.

They could well have helped themselves to an early lead as Kevin Cawley beat the offside trap and then winced as his attempted lob was clawed away to safety by Kyle Letheren.

Hartley’s men had the bit between their teeth, however, and they were near relentless in their efforts to build on their advantage after the break. Despite some steadfast defending the hosts inevitably began to wilt and once again Nade was to make the crucial intervention as his powerful header was handled in the box by Daryll Meggatt who received his second yellow card of the game and then a red for his troubles. Peter MacDonald buried the spot kick and it was game over.

For the Dundee support, however, the party was only just beginning and their side’s football had a bit of a celebratory air to it too, with MacDonald smacking a great effort against the crossbar before Craig Beattie, a second-half replacement for Nade, sent a cleanly struck angled drive into the corner of the net to make it three.