IT WAS a case of the penalty that was and the penalty that wasn’t as St Johnstone fought back from a first-half battering to continue their revival with a controversial point at in-form Dundee.
Scorers: Dundee - Clarkson (41); St Johnstone - Graham (53, pen)
Bobby Madden’s decision to book David Clarkson for a sixth-minute penalty claim incensed the home faithful and irrevocably altered the course of the match, for Saints goalkeeper Alan Mannus would surely have been sent off had the spot-kick been awarded.
For a long time after, it appeared the flash point was going to be a footnote in an otherwise dominant Dundee victory, but a moment of madness from James McPake saw the centre back throw his beleaguered opponents a lifeline in the form of a second-half penalty, and in the end it was the visitors who looked the more likely to take all three points.
“Their penalty changed the game, though it was a penalty. I think we just got spooked and didn’t get going again,” Dundee boss Paul Hartley admitted afterwards.
“Our one was just an incredible decision. It’s a stonewaller. Clarkson’s a goalscorer, he wants to score goals, and he’s just been taken out.”
Saints boss Tommy Wright’s opinion, having consulted video evidence, was that the referee got the decision right. Running onto an ill-advised header back from Gary McDonald, Clarkson tried to lift the ball over the keeper before the pair collided. Wright was insistent Mannus had jumped “straight up in the air” and Clarkson had “ran into him”. There may be some justification in that argument, but a yellow card for simulation was incredibly harsh.
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“They [St Johnstone] are always going to say that,” said Clarkson.
“I’ve got to the ball. He’s not gone through me, but we’ve both just gone up in the air and collided. I think it was a penalty.”
Regardless of the decision, Dundee’s first-half dominance should have been enough to earn them all three points. Martin Boyle, Gary Harkins and Clarkson all had great chances to score before the latter finally broke the deadlock.
The striker, who’s now netted in six consecutive games since joining the club, received a throw from keeper Scott Bain on the left-wing following a St Johnstone corner.
He then moved the play inside before pushing the ball in front of the advancing Paul McGowan 20 yards out. Rather than shoot, the midfielder selflessly laid it on for Greg Stewart who, in turn, generously squared it for Clarkson to fire home.
All of Dundee’s strong work in the first half was then undone within ten minutes of the restart.
There wasn’t enough danger at a routine set-piece to justify McPake grabbing hold of Brian Graham’s shirt and clutching on for dear life. Referee Madden spotted the infringement and Graham took the penalty
himself to smash the ball low
into the bottom corner past the
The goal, coupled with a half-time double substitution, gave the visitors the impetus to be far more competitive in the middle of the park and they grew into the ascendancy the longer the match went on.
“From our second-half performance I felt we fully deserved a point,” said Wright.
“It was a lot better than the first half. We gave the ball away too cheaply in some areas and allowed them to put us under a lot of pressure.”
Despite the undoubted improvement, St Johnstone failed to test Bain much in the latter stages and it was Dundee who came closest to winning the match when Greg Stewart went down in the box, but once again Madden was unmoved by the home side’s claims.
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