JIM McIntyre, the Ross County manager, vented his criticism towards referee Craig Thomson for what he considered to be the game-changing decision which led, in turn, to his side relinquishing their two-goal lead in this thrilling Dens Park affair.
McIntyre’s side were clearly coasting 3-1 when skipper Andrew Davies was sent for an early bath for a push on Dundee defender James McPake which made for his second booking, and duly provided the catalyst for the hosts’ stirring second-half comeback.
County, who’d earlier taken a 19th-minute lead through Liam Boyce and had been on course to move into third spot in the table, benefited from McPake’s 37th-minute own goal after Greg Stewart had levelled for the hosts, before Michael Gardyne netted with a textbook header two minutes before the interval to leave them in complete control.
But Davies’ dismissal preceded Rory Loy’s double, including a penalty, to leave the Highlanders instead hanging on for a point.
Despite seeing his side stretch their unbeaten run to seven games, McIntyre maintained the 52nd-minute ordering-off of Davies was the ultimate turning point.
“It think without a shadow of a doubt it changed the game,” said McIntyre. “It’s very soft. There is contact but if you’re going to look at decisions, then how many free-kicks did Kevin Thomson give away?
“My captain has made two challenges and he’s been sent off when we were comfortable.
“He was rightly booked in the first-half but I don’t think it’s a penalty. I watched it with my own eyes so don’t need to ask the referee.”
Davies was walking a tightrope following his 17th-minute booking for a foul on goalscorer Stewart but still it was the visitors who took the lead in 19 minutes.
The Highlanders broke with conviction as Jackson Irvine skipped past Dundee midfielder Thomson before shuttling a pass out wide to Boyce. With his tenth goal of the season beckoning, Boyce drove into the penalty area and steadied himself, before firing a low left-foot into the far corner of Scott Bain’s net.
But Dundee levelled a mere 60 seconds later, Stewart skilfully evading a couple of challenges before finishing with a low shot into Scott Fox’s near post.
County went 2-1 ahead in 37 minutes when Marcus Fraser’s in-swinging cross was headed into his own net by McPake when it appeared Bain was going to gather.
They went further in front in 43 minutes in simple fashion. This time Irvine’s deep cross picked out Gardyne, whose looping header went back across Bain and into the net.
Dundee knew something considerable was required to turn things round after the break and, in 52 minutes, their comeback began when Davies was judged to have pulled down McPake as they went for Kevin Holt’s free-kick. On his home debut, Loy stepped up to send Fox the wrong way from the spot and in 69 minutes, the same player made it 3-3 when he latched onto Paul McGinn’s through pass.
Dundee weren’t finished there and launched claims for a penalty with 15 minutes left when Stewart went down inside the box close to County substitute Sean Murdoch, but Thomson was having none of it.
“It’s a stonewall penalty,” stated Dundee manager Paul Hartley. If he [Thomson] thinks it’s a dive, then he should book Stewart. We’ve watched it back and it’s a penalty.”