THEY left it late, so late that more than a few of their supporters were shuffling for the exits, but Paul McGowan’s close-range finish in time added on was enough to nudge Dundee into the Premiership top six.
It was a game where chances were a rare commodity and Partick Thistle were worth a point – but if Paul Hartley’s men can still dig out victories in unpromising circumstances like these and continue their current momentum they may well have staying power to be on the right side of the divide come the split.
“Credit to the players, they never gave up”, reflected Hartley, “and the winner was the best bit of quality play of the day. It was great composure from McGowan too for his first goal of the season. It’s a massive thing for us to get into the top six and the challenge for the players is to remain there. We’re really down on numbers at the moment which makes it tough.”
Both of these sides went into this game probably still feeling groggy after each being comprehensively outplayed by Celtic in their previous fixtures and there was element of intrigue in seeing who had greater appetite to try put it all behind them. On the evidence of the opening 45 minutes it appeared to be Thistle by some margin. They dominated possession and moved the ball around with some purpose and fluency. Lyle Taylor could have had them ahead after only six minutes as he drilled a shot narrowly wide of Scott Bain’s goal.
All that was lacking from the Firhill men was that clinical final touch as they certainly found themselves in the Dundee box often enough. A succession of corners around the midway point of the first half suggested that a breakthrough might be imminent but all they had to show for it was a Conrad Balatoni header that just cleared the crossbar.
The hosts meanwhile were in a bit of a fluster as Thistle ruled the roost in midfield. Passes ran astray and Paul Heffernan, having recently alighted at Dens Park, barely got a sniff of the ball. Perversely though Dundee came closest to breaking the deadlock right on the stroke of half-time as Alex Harris’s free kick was adroitly turned round the post by Scott Fox.
This proved to Fox’s last meaningful involvement in the game as he was withdrawn due to injury at the interval to be replaced by Paul Gallacher, with the hosts’ Gary Irvine likewise departing for the same reason. Hartley also went for a further switch at the break bringing on the mercurial Gary Harkins for Kostadin Gadzhalov. In the end it proved to be pivotal but the immediate impact was that Dundee possessed a deal more urgency and momentum in the second half.
This was reflected by them managing to split the Thistle defence on a couple of occasions in a manner they hadn’t be capable of in the first half but as the ball flashed across the face of Gallacher’s six-yard box there just weren’t any Dark Blue shirts in close proximity to take advantage. The visitors seemed to have weathered the storm, however, and stalemate seemed to be the order of day until an attack of their own broke down the ball was played upfield and some neat trickery from Harkins set up McGowan who calmly poked it home with the game in its dying embers.
“We played a lot of good stuff today, but when your luck’s against you that’s what happens”, lamented the frustrated Thistle manager Alan Archibald.
Dundee: Bain; P McGinn, McPake, Konrad, Irvine (Dyer 46); Harris, Gadzhalov (Harkins 46), S McGinn, McAlister; McGowan, Heffernan (Wighton 74).
Partick: Fox (Gallacher 45); O’Donnell, Frans, Balatoni, Booth; Elliot, Fraser (Stevenson 78), Osman, Bannigan; McDaid, Taylor (Doolan 73).
Referee: Craig Thomson. Attendance: 5,560
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