It’s never ideal judging how a team will fare so early on in proceedings, but Dundee know themselves they will have to raise the bar quite considerably.
After the relative disappointment of succumbing to an eighth-place finish last season compared to the high of achieving a top-six slot 12 months earlier, Paul Hartley’s side were intent on at least hitting the ground running on their resumption of competitive action, albeit the League Cup might not top their list of priorities this term.
Instead, what had the makings of a solid start turned into one of those afternoons which left those associated with the Tayside club nursing a sense of frustration at failing to get the job done against their lower league opponents at Bayview.
Kane Hemmings, who so often provided the killer touch for them throughout the last campaign, gave them at least the platform to go on and finish off Gary Naysmith’s newly promoted League 1 side, until some less than convincing defending allowed the hosts to secure a draw courtesy of Kevin Smith’s 77th minute free-kick, before Rory Loy and James Vincent failed to converting their attempts in the ensuing penalty shoot-out.
By contrast, Scott Mercer, Chris Duggan, Mark Lamont and Scott Robinson all did the business from the spot for the Fifers, who gathered even more momentum following their League 2 triumph only recently.
It made, all in all, for one of those annoying afternoons for Hartley, who is well aware they can’t afford to defend like that, especially against higher-level quality of opposition.
“It was disappointing to be honest, “ said Hartley. “Losing on penalties wasn’t so much the thing. It was more the performance in the second half which wasn’t good enough.”
Dundee, for their part, were missing striker Greg Stewart whose future remains uncertain after the Dens Park club slapped a £1.5 million price tag on him as he enters the final years of his contract.
Still, in 36 minutes, new boy Danny Williams forced the East Fife defence into a rushed clearance, and the ball fell nicely for Hemmings to carry on from where he left off last season, burying a volley into the corner of the net, ten minutes from the interval.
The home team, though, levelled in 77 minutes. Kevin Holt, the Dundee defender, brought down Chris Duggan and from the resulting set-piece, Smith beat deputy goalkeeper David Mitchell all ends up, bringing on the shoot-out which the hosts ultimately won.
“This should give the players a lot of confidence,” said East Fife manager Naysmith. “Dundee are a decent side but we acquitted ourselves well across the park.”