Dundee moved off the foot of the table with an entertaining and impressive 2-0 win over Motherwell at Dens Park this afternoon. Cammy Kerr put the Dee ahead shortly before half time with his first goal for the club. Marcus Haber confirmed Dundee’s superiority when he also scored his first Dundee goal late in the match. The Dark Blues looked nothing like relegation candidates as they put in a performance that was as bright as the fetching pink shirt they wore to support Maggie’s Centre, the cancer support unit at Ninewells Hospital.
The only change to Dundee’s starting line up was Kevin Gomis replacing Julen Etxabeguren, who was ill. Motherwell made two changes; Steven Hammell and Keith Lasley came in for Jack McMillan and Lee Lucas.
Dundee opened confidently passing well and pressing effectively in midfield, a style that they maintained for the whole match. Craig Wighton quickly served notice that he was brimming with confidence, revelling in the opportunity to play off a big, strong centre forward in Marcus Haber, while being supported by an aggressive and creative midfield. Wighton created an early chance when he took Haber’s flick, held possession superbly and found Cammy Kerr who hammered a low, angled shot just past the far post.
Dundee continued to dominate, with Wighton catching the eye with his skill and movement. Motherwell were offering little threat in open play, but gave the Dee a fright when David Mitchell pushed a corner against the crossbar. That was nothing compared to a hugely controversial escape after 20 minutes. Scott McDonald’s overhit cross should have been an easy catch for Mitchell as it dropped under the crossbar. The Dee keeper stumbled as he landed and although both his feet were behind the line the officials decided that the ball hadn’t crossed the line. Looking across from near the corner flag the assistant referee kept his flag down, to the fury of the Motherwell players and the away fans in the Bob Shankly Stand behind the goal.
The Dark Blues had another escape a few minutes later when McDonald was allowed too much space at a free kick, but from eight yards he directed his header straight at Mitchell. In Motherwell’s only fluent move of the first half Cadden crossed low for McDonald to shoot but Kevin Gomis blocked.
Although Dundee certainly rode their luck in the middle of the first half it was the home side who looked more dangerous and inventive on the ball, and hungrier to win it back when they didn’t have possession.
The Dark Blues took the lead six minutes before the interval with a goal that summed up their performance. Scott McDonald had the ball on the half way line, but Cammy Kerr brushed him aside and galloped forward. On the edge of the penalty area he slipped Craig Wighton in to shoot, but Craig Samson stuck out a foot to save. The ball fell kindly for KERR who took a touch before hammering it gleefully into the net and setting off on the sort of wild celebration you would expect from a young player who had just scored his first goal for the club he has supported all his life.
Kerr’s raiding down the right had been such a threat to Motherwell that it was no surprise that Well replaced left back Hammell at half time; Jack McMillan came on for the second half.
Attacking down the hill towards the Bob Shankly Stand the Dark Blues quickly took control and never relaxed their high tempo pressing and passing game till the final whistle. Craig Samson was much the busier keeper, and he had to stretch athletically to touch Craig Wighton’s 20 yard shot over the bar after the youngster’s neat combination with Marcus Haber.
Clever and determined play by Wighton on the right allowed Tom Hateley time to hit a dangerous cross to the far post where Marcus Haber’s header was tipped onto the crossbar by Samson. Kevin Gomis’s game ended unfortunately when he rampaged forward only to be fouled 22 yards from goal. He landed awkwardly and left the pitch clutching his shoulder. Kevin Holt took the free kick, but hit it too close to Samson. Danny Williams replaced Gomis, playing at left wing back, and Kevin Holt switched to central defence.
Dundee continued to dominate, constantly threatening to score the second goal they deserved and needed, but frustratingly it took a long time to come. Holt headed a deep corner down into the goalmouth, but Haber’s shot was blocked. Holt went close himself when he started and finished a fast and slick move. Winning the ball in Dundee’s half he raced forward, and then drilled a shot inches past the post from 18 yards after Danny Williams and Paul McGowan had combined to switch it back to him.
Finally the second goal arrived, and featured a memorable assist from Craig Wighton who had a fine first half, but was on fire in a second half during which he roasted Motherwell’s defence. There was an audible gasp from the home support when Wighton burst clear of the defence with a stunning piece of skill on the left wing. He raced into the penalty area and pulled the ball back for Marus HABER to slam home the second goal from 10 yards.
Wighton might have notched a third goal, which he would have richly deserved, when he tied Well’s defence in knots before shooting from 16 yards, only for Samson to save well. The game opened up briefly after the second goal, and Motherwell offered some brief threat for the only time in the second half. McManus skyed the ball when it broke to him following a corner, and Craig Clay had a decent curling effort that was well taken by Mitchell. However, Dundee ended the game as comfortable winners.
At the final whistle the players were applauded off the pitch after the first home win of the season, and certainly the best performance since the opening day win at Ross County. The key to today’s success was Dundee’s dominance in midfield. Well were never allowed a moment’s peace and Dundee repeatedly broke up attacks with their harrying, either taking the ball or forcing Well to turn backwards. Not only did the Dee midfielders chase like terriers they played some good football and provided good, effective support to the strikers. Aside from the first half scares the defence looked solid.
The talking point after the match, however, was the stand out display by young Craig Wighton who probably had his finest game for the Dee. It might have been strange to see Dundee wearing Maggie’s bright pink, but an excellent team performance topped of by some Maggie’s magic from number 33 Craig Wighton warmed the hearts of the Dark Blue support on a bitterly cold Guy Fawkes Day.
Dundee FC 3-5-2
Gomis (Williams 56 ), Gadzhalov, O’Dea
Kerr, Hateley, McGowan, Vincent, Holt
Unused subs: Bain (gk), Low, Loy, Duffy, Ross, Teijsse.
Goals: Kerr (39), Haber (79).
Booked: Williams (foul on Tait).
Tait, Heneghan, McManus, Hammell (McMillan at half time)
Cadden, Lasley (MacLean 58), Clay, Ainsworth (Thomas 58)
Unused subs: Brill (gk), Bowman ,Ferguson, Campbell.
Booked: Hammill (foul on Haber), McManus (foul on Gomis).
Attendance: 5,471 (385 Well supporters)
Referee: John Beaton. Assistants: Alan Mulvanny, Ross Haswell. Fourth official: Scott Millar.
Report: James Christie.