OF ALL the presents they hoped to find under the tree last week, probably few St Mirren fans in their wildest imaginations could have expected one as thrilling and uplifting as this victory.
Scorers: Dundee - Irvine 84; St Mirren - McLean 28, 79 pen; Mallan 68
It wasn’t gift-wrapped either. They achieved it through a real togetherness and no little style, with a rejuvenated Kenny McLean getting a double and a fine strike by youngster Stephen Mallan putting them in what has been unchartered territory of a three-goal lead before a pretty bedraggled Dundee clawed one back near the end.
It says something for how tight things are at the bottom of the Premiership that this first win in ten games is enough to lift the Paisley side off the basement at Ross County’s expense, but aside from a few moments of uncertainty in the opening stages, they made this look a bit of a breeze.
Any rumours that St Mirren camp has not been the happiest to be around of late were also blown away as they displayed an admirable team ethic to gain the upper hand in the game that they never relinquished. They fought hard for one another, were tenacious in the tackle and knocked the ball around with a genuine confidence.
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It was exactly the response that their caretaker manager Gary Teale had been craving. “All I’ve been saying since my first day in the job was that we just need to put the demand on to work hard and for each other”, he reflected, “Today the effort and the desire were there – in football if you win these individual battles against the opposition nine times out of ten you’ll go on and win the game”.
He also expressed his delight with McLean’s contribution leading the attack. “He ended up there last week after Steven Thompson was sent off and I thought we’ll just stick with it. He’s a natural footballer and can play in almost any position”.
It was clear from early on that McLean was relishing his new role as he took aim whenever the target came into view yesterday. Having seen a decent effort deflected wide of Kyle Letheren’s goal, and an ambitious scissor-kick soar over the bar, he struck with an emphatic finish after Thomas Konrad’s misdirected clearance was directed into his path by Sean Kelly to give the visitors a morale-boosting breakthrough just under the half hour mark.
It was a deserved advantage at this stage, but although Dundee were less fluid, they could still point to a fine block by Mark Ridgers from a Luka Tankulic volley in opening ten minutes. As the interval loomed the Saints rearguard also had another highly fortuitous escape as Jason Naismith knocked the ball against his own post following another corner that he and his colleagues dealt with unconvincingly.
Dundee attempted to lay siege in search of an equaliser after the interval, but for all their possession there was something terribly laboured about their attacking play. Too often there just wasn’t enough pace or incisiveness, which just allowed their opponents to double up and pull down the shutters. Paul Hartley searched for some creative spark, bringing on Phil Roberts and Gary Harkins, but neither of them had the chance to make impact when young Mallan strode forward, cut inside and sent a beauty of a low curling shot past Letheren to double the visitors advantage.
Unsurprisingly, there was a swagger about the Paisley men after this as they repeatedly burst forward and they eventually got themselves the luxury of a third as McLean stumbled under a challenge from Paul McGinn. A red card for the Dundee full-back seemed somewhat harsh, as indeed was the penalty award itself, but McLean absolutely thrashed it home regardless. It was game over and quite a number of home fans didn’t hang around long enough to see Gary Irvine net a late consolation goal with six minutes remaining.
Hartley didn’t mince his words afterwards, branding it the Dens Park side’s “worst performance of the season” and the goals they conceded as “poor”. Not the best way to prepare for the Dundee derby on New Year’s Day, it has to be said.
Dundee: Letheren; P McGinn, McPake, Konrad (MacDonald 83), Irvine; Boyle (Roberts 64), Thomson, McAlister, Stewart; Clarkson, Tankulic (Harkins 68).
St Mirren: Ridgers; Naismith, Mcausland, Goodwin, Tesselaar; McLear (Wylde 66), Mallan, Osbourne (Ball 63), Kelly; J McGinn, McLean (Drury 80).
Referee: Don Robertson. Attendance: 6,447.
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