A fantastic team performance brought Dundee a richly deserved three points from a 2-1 win against Rangers at Dens Park this afternoon. Mark O’Hara and Kevin Holt put the Dee two goals ahead at half time. Although Joe Garner pulled a goal back for Rangers Dundee had the better of the second half. The Dark Blues finished the match as the stronger team, rather than hanging on desperately to their lead, and moved into the top six at the final whistle.
Both clubs made three changes from last weekend’s games. The Dee reverted to a 4-4-2 formation and brought in Julen Etxabeguren, James Vincent and Craig Wighton, replacing Kevin Gomis, Kosta Gadzhalov and Tom Hateley, who were all on the bench. Rangers replaced Philippe Senderos, Lee Wallace and Jason Holt with Rob Kiernan, Lee Hodson and Joe Garner.
Dundee kicked off, attacking up the hill towards the Bobby Cox Stand and nearly scored in 13 seconds, before a Rangers player had touched the ball. From the kick off the ball was swept out to the left wing. Craig Wighton raced past Rob Kiernan and crossed for Mark O’Hara, whose header from eight yards flew past the far post. That breathless start set the tone for a game that was always a gripping spectacle for the enthusiastic Dee support.
Rangers did have an early half chance, when Martyn Waghorn flashed an angled drive over Scott Bain’s crossbar. However, it was the Dark Blues who were looking the more energetic, creative and dangerous side.
Rangers defence was in trouble whenever the ball was in their half. Even when they had the ball Dundee’s pressing and chasing forced repeated errors. The visitors looked more comfortable once they managed to work the ball into Dundee’s half, but they struggled to create real danger against a hard working and well organised Dark Blue defence. Some neat passing couldn’t disguise Rangers’ failure to pass or move quickly enough to penetrate Dundee.
In contrast the Dark Blues were attacking with pace and conviction. After 12 minutes Dundee carved Rangers open to score a delightful goal. Henrik Ojamaa combined beautifully with Craig Wighton on the left to run into space. His low cross found Mark O’HARA racing in to smash the ball inside the far post, the perfect finish to a high quality move.
Dundee continued to tear at the Rangers defence and harrass them mercilessly when the Light Blues had the ball. Unusually Kevin Holt was taking corners on the right, and his wickedly inswinging delivery caused panic in the Rangers defence when Foderingham lost track of the ball and was grateful to see Lee Hodson turn it past the post.
The Dark Blues had clearly been sent out to press Rangers high up the park and stop them playing out from the back. The Dee players carried out the plan to perfection throughout the match, hunting Rangers players in packs. Rangers had to replace Clint Hill with Danny Wilson after 30 minutes, but it made no difference to the game. Hill hadn’t looked comfortable, and the substitution made no difference to the game.
Rangers could seldom find any space in the final third, and on one rare occasion when they managed to find some freedom Kenny Miller sent a volley straight into Scott Bain’s arms from a very difficult angle.
Five minutes from half time Dundee scored the second goal that their play merited. Mark O’Hara collected the ball from a Marcus Haber flick and ran at the Rangers defence, only to be tripped on the right a yard from the corner of the penalty area. Kevin HOLT took the free kick, driving it low around the two man wall, and the ball flew through the crowded goalmouth and past the startled Foderingham.
In the final few minutes of the half Dundee had Rangers on the ropes as the Dark Blues pressed for a killer third goal. The Gers were all at sea as Marcus Haber ended an attack by shooting wide from 10 yards.
Dundee’s dominance continued after the break. James Tavernier brought a good save from Scott Bain with a 30 yard free kick, but the play was mostly raging down the slope as the Dee tore into Rangers with some lovely attacking football. Marcus Haber’s link play with the three players behind him was a pleasure to watch, while James Vincent and Paul McGowan drove the Dee forward relentlessly.
Surprisingly the next goal came at the other end, against the run of play. Joe GARNER cut in from the left and his 20 yard shot took a slight deflection on its way past Bain. The goal briefly threatened to change the momentum of the game as Rangers started to believe they could save something from a game that seemed to be slipping out of their reach. They might have grabbed a quick, and unlikely, equaliser when Kenny Miller’s shot took a deflection and struck the outside of the post.
However, Rangers’ goal had not come from a sustained improvement, or from any change to the underlying pattern of the game. The Gers simply could not cope with Dundee’s pressing or energy, and once the Dark Blues slipped back into the gear they had maintained for the first hour they started to turn the screw on Rangers once again.
Mark O’Hara burst past Hodson on the right and ran along the byline, but he couldn’t find Haber with his cutback. O’Hara was then unfortunate not to win a penalty when he seemed to be tripped as he went past Danny Wilson.
Rangers made a double substitution, sending on Jason Holt and Harry Forrester for Andrew Halliday and Barrie McKay. Forrester immediately wasted Rangers’ best chance of the match when a clever Miller pass released Waghorn on the left. When the cross came over Forrester lashed wildly at it from eight yards, sending the ball yards over the bar.
Dundee made their only substitution of the match, 10 minutes from time when Danny Williams came on for Henrik Ojamaa who had been working relentlessly, running at Rangers and chasing their defenders into mistakes. Craig Wighton moved into a more central role and Williams provided more solidity on the left. Wighton soon took advantage of his new position nutmegging Wilson and running clear, only to see Foderingham save with his feet at the expense of a corner. When the ball came over it was cleared but returned quickly, finding Etxabeguren clear on the right, but the defender couldn’t find Haber with his cross.
The usual script for these games is that the side in the lead fends off late pressure as the losing team throws everything into attack. It didn’t pan out that way because Dundee were still hounding Rangers deep inside their own half, and stopping them building any controlled attacks. Cammy Kerr deserves particular praise for his ferocious tackling and blocking on the right that kept Rangers pinned back in their own half.
In injury time the Dark Blues were on the attack, holding the ball and probing Rangers defence. A prolonged, patient attack ended with James Vincent’s low shot from 20 yards being saved by Foderingham.
When the final whistle sounded the home fans rose to their feet to applaud the team off the park. Dundee played some good football today, but what was striking, and delighted the support, was the fighting spirit of the players. For most of the game Dundee bullied Rangers, who had no answer to the Dark Blues’ pressing and energetic attacking. Every single player deserved that standing ovation for the way they turned the game plan into a thrilling and thoroughly deserved win.
Dundee FC 4-4-2
Kerr, Etxabeguren, O’Dea (c), Holt
O’Hara, McGowan, Vincent, Wighton
Ojamaa (Williams 80), Haber
Unused subs: Gourlay (gk), Hateley, Ross, El Bakhtaoui, Gadzhalov, Gomis.
Goals: O’Hara (12), Holt (40).
Booked: Etxabeguren (foul on McKay).
Tavernier, Kiernan, Hill (Wilson 30), Hodson
Hyndman, Halliday (Holt 77)
Waghorn, Miller (c), McKay (Forrester 77)
Unused subs: Alnwick (gk), Dodoo, O’Halloran, Houston.
Goal: Garner (61).
Booked: Garner (foul on Etxabeguren).
Attendance: 9,017 (4,024 away supporters).
Referee: Craig Thomson. Assistants: Andrew McWilliam, Stuart Hodge. Fourth official: Kevin Graham.
Report: James Christie.