HAVING lost nine goals there in just two league meetings last season, Tannadice Park might not be Dundee’s choice of venue to try to get their season back on track this evening.
While it is handy for them, the stadium on the other side of the street has not brought Dundee much joy in recent times. Not only did they lose heavily on both league visits last season, including a 6-2 defeat on New Year’s day, they were also dumped out of the League Cup at the ground last September courtesy of a last-minute winner scored by Jaroslaw Fojut.
But both teams are much changed even since the last derby of last season, with Fojut one of those who has since departed. It is because of this that Dundee manager Paul Hartley, right, and defender James McPake are not obsessing about the these bleak experiences.
McPake is the only Dundee player likely to start this evening who played in every derby last season. As for United, their side will also look very different in terms of personnel.
However, as Jackie McNarama pointed out yesterday, relatively inexperienced youngsters such as Charlie Telfer and Blair Spittal have not only played in Dundee derbies, but scored as well.
“We played them five times last season and won four of them,” said McNamara, who questioned talk of a resurgent Dundee finishing above United this season. “We took a lot of goals off them. But again it is forgotten.”
Hartley is preparing to welcome back striker Rory Loy, who was forced to sit out Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Hearts due to a groin niggle after scoring twice in the opening day win over Kilmarnock. Loy watched from the stand as Dundee initially terrorised Hearts and then capitulated rather limply to the visitors, who turned things round after the interval with two goals.
Hartley was not dwelling too much on this second-half performance, preferring to accentuate the positives of the levels reached in one and half games since the season started. Neither is he reading too much into some torrid experiences at the hands of United last season.
“We didn’t have our strongest team in some of those games. We were probably at our strongest in the game we won here, in April,” he said. “We just didn’t perform in the other games. Defensively as a team we lost bad goals. But it is a new group of players, so they have not experienced that.”
McPake, meanwhile, warned that Dundee could be making a fatal mistake if they allow themselves to think they are facing a much weaker United team to last season.
“If you look at the three they have lost to Celtic – Mackay-Steven, Armstrong and Ciftci – and the fact they play most weeks, it tells you they are good players,” he said.
“You would struggle to find another team in the league where three players could go to Celtic and start. In that respect you could say they are weaker, although I don’t know the players they have brought in.
“It would be silly or unfair for me to comment on if they are weaker or stronger but they’ve certainly lost three very good players.” he added.
“It would be foolish for us to think they have got weaker. That would never be allowed to happen, from the manager down through the squad. Nobody would let that happen because if we did we would be in for a rude awakening.”