A penny for the thoughts of Steven Caulker. The ex-England international defender, recruited seven days after the end of the transfer window, watched on as defensive calamities from his new team-mates gifted a place in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup to visitors Motherwell.
In the wake of the alarming 4-1 defeat to Ross County last weekend, the home faithful received an unexpected boost during the week when their side pulled off what is quite a remarkable marquee signing. However, with the 26-year-old still yet to reach match fitness, it was a familiar tale for the under-pressure Dens Park players once they crossed the white line.
Neil McCann’s side failed to take advantage of opportunities created at one end, and handed them on a plate to their opponents at the other. If the first goal, which should have been saved by goalkeeper Robert Parish, was bad enough, then the second was downright laughable.
Though the problems in attack look set to last the distance, at least the recent signing should help solidify a defence which has reverted to its old habits since the January break. After managing to keep four clean sheets in nine games to finish 2017, they’ve conceded 11 in the six matches since.
“I’m not going to just blame the defenders because we missed, what I counted, to be seven clear-cut chances in that game,” said McCann. “But the goals we conceded, they were joke goals. There is no danger they should be in the back of our net.”
Motherwell almost saw themselves ahead inside three minutes. A Craig Tanner free-kick was headed back across by Cedric Kipre for defensive partner Tom Aldred to nod home. However, the linesman’s flag saw the ‘goal’ chopped off.
Dundee almost punished their guests immediately, though Sofien Moussa could only glance Jon Aurtenetxe’s cross wide of goal. The striker had another opportunity a short-time later, turning inside the penalty box and scooping his effort high over the bar. Nadir Ciftci then headed wide down the other end as the game bounced back and forth inside the first 15 minutes.
The game went into a bit of lull for the following quarter of an hour before it burst back into life with Motherwell’s opener. Ciftci headed down for Tanner and, while the attacker caught his shot well from 20 yards, Parish should really have done better than to let it squirm underneath him.
Aurtenetxe, one of the few in the home ranks who could be happy with his performance, then created three chances in quick succession to end the half. The wing-back saw Kevin Holt, Genseric Kusunga and Darren O’Dea all fail to hit the target after being found by his corner-kick deliveries.
Dundee started their second strongly as Moussa failed to get a shot off after controlling a cross from Cammy Kerr, before Mark O’Hara saw a stinging drive from 25 yards pushed over by Trevor Carson.
The tie was then settled in a manic 60-second period. Moussa looked certain to level the scores as he expertly controlled a terrific crossfield pass from Kusunga and stepped around the last defender. With just Carson to beat, the striker struck his finish right at the sprawling keeper. As a direct ball was knocked down the other end in search of Curtis Main, Holt headed over his own goalkeeper as Parish raced from his line to clear. They could only look on in anguish as the rolled over the goal-line.
Considering the chances they’d passed up 35 minutes should have been more than enough time for Dundee to get themselves back into the contest. However, it immediately became apparent that the defensive calamity had sucked all the energy out of the home players and they never looked capable of keeping themselves in the quarter-final draw.