Dundee had to settle for a point from a 1-1 draw against Motherwell at Fir Park this afternoon. Paul McGowan put the Dee ahead a minute into the second half only for Craig Tanner to equalise from the penalty spot after an hour. From then till the final whistle Dundee battered their hosts, who managed to hold out despite having to play 20 minutes with 10 men after Elliott Frear was injured after Well had committed all their substitutes. Dundee saw the ball come back into play from the woodwork three times and would have claimed a deserved victory if Well keeper Trevor Carson had not saved superbly from Josh Meekings in injury time.
Neil McCann sent out an unchanged starting 11 after last week’s win over Partick Thistle. Motherwell made three changes; regulars Trevor Carson, Peter Hartley and Chris Cadden returned in place of Russell Griffiths, Steven Hammell and Alex Fisher.
A nasty wind was swirling around the pitch, making the game a lottery when the ball was in the air. After only a minute a confident and encouraging Dundee attack ended with Sofien Moussa heading too high from Cammy Kerr’s cross. Moussa went even closer a few minutes later when he headed Jon Aurtenetxe’s inswinging corner against the post. Lying on the ground Well keeper Trevor Carson hooked the dropping ball out for a corner before any Dees could take advantage.
Both teams were trying to pass the ball, rather than launching it into the wind. Dundee had the edge in composure and their passing was more controlled and accurate. Motherwell regularly worked their way into promising positions, but let themselves down with some poor crossing and passing in the final third.
Dundee went close from another Aurtenetxe corner. Moussa peeled off beyond the far post and nodded the ball back across goal only for Josh Meekings to head over the bar when he should really have scored.
The last 15 minutes of the first half were marred by the wind. Both teams were able to disrupt their opponents’ attempts to play along the ground and neither side could find a way to harness the wind to their advantage.
The match exploded into life after the restart. Dundee opened the scoring with a wonderful goal, built up from the back. Sofien Moussa took the ball on the half way line and laid it off to Faissal El Bakhtaoui, who raced forward before setting up Paul McGowan with a clear sight of goal. MCGOWAN took the chance quickly, rifling a rising shot past Carson from 20 yards.
Three minutes later McGowan came agonisingly close to a second goal that would have surpassed the first. Aurtenetxe won the ball and found McGowan in space. Again from 20 yards he took aim, and this time sent a deft chip over Carson only for the ball to come back off the crossbar.
Motherwell struggled to get their game going after the break and looked very much second best. Liam Grimshaw took advantage of some uncharacteristically diffident defending, bursting through two tackles, but Elliott Parish saved well from his angled shot. Aside from that Motherwell struggled to worry Dundee.
Dundee were controlling the game and looking increasingly confident. After an hour Well were handed a lifeline from the penalty spot. A corner broke to Mark O’Hara and he was about to clear when Cédric Kipré nipped on his blind side to take the force of the attempted clearance. Craig TANNER tucked the ball into the corner of the net from the spot to give Well an equaliser.
Motherwell took heart from the goal and raised their game putting the Dee under pressure for a few minutes. Tanner had a good strike from a free kick 28 yards out, but Parish handled it well.
After that brief charge Dundee settled on the ball again, taking control in midfield and Motherwell fell out of contention. Glen Kamara was outstanding, conducting proceedings from the middle of the park. Many midfielders in Scotland are happy to take the ball by mugging opponents. Kamara is a classy pickpocket, relieving the opposition of the ball as he glides by. Before they notice the ball has disappeared Kamara is already away and setting up another Dee attack.
Scott Allan came on for El Bakhtaoui after Motherwell equalised and he was prominent as Dundee searched for the winner. Dundee were increasingly finding space with their movement and passing. Kerr ran clear on the right from an Allan pass, but his fierce ball across goal didn’t find a Dark Blue player.
After 76 minutes Motherwell substitue Elliott Frear headed down the tunnel, suffering from a hamstring problem. Well had already used their three substitutes and had to make do with 10 men for the remainder of the game. Dundee were already in charge and with a numerical advantage they were in total control, the game being played almost entirely in Motherwell’s half.
With 10 minutes to go the woodwork saved Well for the third time. Josh Meekings’ glancing header from Allan’s free kick seemed on its way into the net, but came back into play off the inside of the post and Motherwell escaped in the ensuing scramble. After 85 minutes Allan’s near post header from a Kerr cross flew into the side netting. A minute before the end of normal time Paul McGowan’s flick from an Allan cross drifted just the wrong side of the post.
There were four minutes of added time and the Dee coolly pressed for a winner, rather than frantically lumping the ball forward. In the last minute of injury time they almost grabbed the winning goal they deserved. Allan’s corner found Meekings at the far post and his diving header looked a certain winner, only for Carson to rescue a point for Well with a stunning save.
Motherwell are a tough side to beat these days, and a point at Fir Park is far from being a poor result. However, after shading a rather messy first half the Dee were dominant for almost the whole of the second half. In difficult conditions the Dee played controlled and attractive passing football. Motherwell showed ample character and resilience, befitting their nickname of the Steelmen. Many sides might have folded against Dundee’s onslaught but Well deserve plaudits for hanging on.
A draw does feel disappointing after such a good performance, but there was plenty for Dundee fans to enjoy today. The manager insists on his team playing out from the back and the Dee looked very comfortable and impressive playing the game the McCann way.
Motherwell FC 3-4-1-2
Kipré, Hartley, Dunne
Cadden (Rose 53), Grimshaw (Frear 52) McHugh (c), Tait
Tanner, Bowman (Newell 52)
Unused subs: Xen0dochov (gk), Hammell, Petravicius, Campbell.
Goal: Tanner (60 pen) .
Booked: Rose (simulation), Bigirimana (foul on Kamara).
Dundee FC 4-3-2-1
Kerr (c), Hendry, Meekings, Aurtenetxe
O’Hara, Kamara, McGowan
Leitch-Smith, El Bakhtaoui (Allan 65)
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Holt, O’Dea, Haber, Curran, Waddell.
Booked: Moussa (foul on Hartley), Kerr (foul on Dunne).
Attendance: 4,173 (535 Dees).
Referee: Don Robertson. Assistants: Andrew McWilliam, Daniel McFarlane. Fourth official: Grant Irvine.
Report: James Christie.