The coming together of these Tayside rivals produced fireworks last season in form of some feisty after-match contretemps featuring both managers. By contrast this was a damp squib.
For Dundee, a promising start failed to ignite a much needed match winning performance as problems continue to mount for under-pressure manager Neil McCann.
A return to some bite and venom wouldn’t go amiss at Dens Park as they seek to lift themselves off the floor of the Premiership – that and an out and out striker who could give them some cutting edge. Someone just like Tony Watt, in fact, who scored the winner here for St Johnstone with a clinical finish to take his tally to six in his short career to date with the Perth club. Full of energy and power, Watt looks every bit like a player reborn at the moment and how Tommy Wright, under whom he is flourishing, must hope it continues.
“I’m pleased - it was controlled, measured and comfortable in the end,” reflected Wright on his side’s performance.
On Watt’s impact he was effusive - “His work rate was the thing that impressed me today. The goal is down to him persevering. He takes a great touch which means the defender can’t do anything with him and we know he can finish. I love working with him.”
The return of Steven Caulker, Paul McGowan and Glen Kamara certainly added a spine of some substance and quality to Dundee’s starting XI yesterday. Allied with sense of mission in the wake of their undistinguished exit from the Betfred Cup at the hands of Ayr United it looked as though they were a decent bet to redeem themselves in this derby encounter. A good opening half hour yielded no breakthrough however despite some clever probing from the likes of McGowan, Kharl Madianga and Adil Nabi.
A correspondingly slow start by the hosts was not aided by Murray Davidson’s forced withdrawal with injury after only 14 minutes but they gradually got a foothold thanks to Watt’s enthusiastic running and finding their bearings down the flanks where Matt Kennedy was a particular threat. The winger set up a great opportunity for David McMillan but the Irishman shot straight at Jack Hamilton before having a couple good efforts himself. Watt also stung the palms of Hamilton with a fierce angled drive as the interval approached. Dundee though still carried a threat and Kamara’s teasing through ball created the best chance of opening 45 minutes for Ben Kallman but his shot on the turn was just a fraction wide.
The pendulum had discernibly swung in the hosts favour though and they quickly grasped the initiative after the restart. Another impressive piece of acceleration by Watt saw him outpace the Dundee defence and drive into the box. His angled drive beat Hamilton and rolled into the far corner of the net.
Although there was the best part of 40 minutes left for Dundee to try retrieve the deficit the harsh reality was that, barring a late header by Sofien Moussa which should have been put away but instead was directed straight at Zander Clark, they never remotely looked like doing so. Perhaps even more damning was the palpable sense that they didn’t have the belief they would find a way through the well drilled home rearguard.
Saints ought to have compounded their neighbours misery by taking advantage of a number of promising counter attacks but it was a measure of the relative comfort with which they saw out this game that such profligacy was of no consequence.
“It’s so frustrating,” remarked McCann ruefully. “I thought we dominated the first half. But we make a mistake and cough up the ball and Watt finishes it really well. It’s a sore one to take.”