A Well-come Return For McCann
Dundee travelled to Lanarkshire for the first post-split fixture of the Ladbrokes Premiership season and new interim manager Neil McCann made three changes from Dundee’s last game against Hamilton for his first selection with Wighton, Gomis and Ross coming in for Kerr, Higgins and El Bahktaoui.
The changes in selection almost meant a change in formation with Dundee lining up with a 4-4-2 with Paul McGowan surprisingly playing up front alongside Marcus Haber.
Motherwell kicked the game off and were on the front foot straight away with a Frear cross from the left sailing just over Bain’s crossbar and then O’Hara having to look smart to block a cross from the same player. Motherwell won the first corner of the game in five minutes but it sailed over everyone and posed no danger.
Dundee’s first meaningful sojourn into the Motherwell half saw Nick Ross surge forward and thread a beautiful ball out wide to Haber but the Canadian’s cross was deflected behind for a corner. Tom Hateley took the kick but Louis Moult headed it out of the home side’s box from around 12 yards.
Tom Hateley whipped in another ball into the Motherwell box, this time a cross from the left but ex-Dee Craig Samson came off his line to confidently gather as Dundee tried to get into the game.
Scott Bain then had to do likewise when he catches a Frear free kick at his back post and shortly afterwards it was Kevin Holt who had to clear the danger when he confidently dribbled out the Dundee box after Moult had failed to get on the end of a cross.
Motherwell continued to pepper the Dundee box with crosses and on 15 minutes Nick Ross had to look lively to intercept a Frear ball from the left and launch it upfield.
Minutes later Ryan Bowman fired in a cross from the right but Moult caught Tom Hateley on the side of head with his arm and the former Steelman needed some treatment.
Ben Heneghan chipped the ball into the Dundee box and Bain caught it easily as the home fans groaned and Bain was in action again moments later when he punched away a free kick out of his six yard box after Nick Ross had fouled Moult 30 yards from goal.
Kevin Gomis picked up a booking on 29 minutes after a heavy challenge on Scott McDonald but when the free kick came into the Dundee box, O’Dea headed it clear.
Just after the half hour Motherwell created the best chance of the game so far when Moult had a clear sight of goal from inside the D but his shot was straight at Bain who saved with ease.
Moult looked to be Motherwell’s main danger and had another effort when he hit a half volley from just inside the box but Holt dived in bravely to block and clear.
Dundee managed to get themselves up the park on 35 minutes when Haber ran down the right wing but his cross was blocked by McHugh and out for a throw and when it fell to Hateley, his dangerous looking cross into the the six yard box was headed away by Heneghan from a mass of bodies in the air.
Motherwell created the next good chance when a McDonald header eight yards out was deflected over his own bar by Holt and when the corner came in, Bain did superbly well to palm it behind for another corner which Dundee cleared.
The Motherwell tactic of firing crosses into the Dundee box continued and five minutes before the break, an effort on the right from Cadden looked to be drifting under the bar but Bain tracked bar and tipped it over.
Dundee still posed a threat when they went forward and O’Hara was unlucky not to latch on to a nicely threaded ball into the box but minutes later O’Hara got a the little bit of luck he needed when he gave Dundee the lead.
Kevin Holt fired in a deep cross into the Motherwell box and Haber and Samson went up for it at the back post. Luckily for Dundee Samson parried it straight to O”HARA who smashed it into the net from six yards to give the Dark Blues the lead.
The goal came a minute before the break and Motherwell might have felt aggrieved to gone into half time behind but four minutes into the second half they found themselves two behind.
Kevin Holt ran into the Motherwell box along the by line and when he cut the ball back to O’Hara who shot was blocked before it fell to MARCUS HABER who stabbed it into the net.
However Motherwell pulled a goal back just a minute later after Bain had done well to tip a Frear cross from the right over the bar. When the corner came over it fell to MOULT at the back post and he fired the ball into the roof of then net from a tight angle.
Dundee were quick to restore their two goal when on 56 minutes Craig Wighton chipped a lovely ball in from the left and Mark O’Hara stooped to head it home but with Samson looking like he might save it, the ball hit HABER’s knee and deflected into the net.
Motherwell looked dangerous going forward and Bain had to make a superb save from Frear’s 20 yard shot, diving full length to push it behind for a corner. Heneghan headed the corner over the bar from 12 yards as Dundee looked to settle the game down again.
Both sides made subs around the hour mark with Motherwell bringing on Lionel Ainsworth while Neil McCann’s first substitution for Dundee saw Danny Williams come on for Craig Wighton.
Haber came close to getting his hat-trick when Holt blasted a cross into the box and the forward was inches away from connecting on the six yard line.
There was a huge let off for Dundee however when it looked like a Heneghan header from a Cadden corner had crossed the line before it was cleared by Hateley but the referee Steven McLean looked over to his linesman who signalled no goal. Motherwell manager Steve Robinson was apoplectic on the touchline but as Dundee manager Neil McCann said post match, “if we had goal line technology up here, they wouldn’t have got that goal against Caley in their last match.”
Motherwell did get their second when Cadden slid in at the back post with ten minutes left and despite throwing everything at Bain’s goal, they couldn’t get their equaliser.
Not that they had it all their own way in the final stages as both substitute El Bahktaoui and the superb Kevin Holt had shots blocked in the six yard box as Dundee counter attacked.
The 3-2 win sees Dundee leapfrog Motherwell and Hamilton into ninth and gives the Dark Blues a huge boost going into the last four games. The team defended resolutely, counter attacked with pace and guile and implemented the interim manager’s game plan to perfection. More performances and results like this and the ‘interim’ part of his title will be removed.
More than double the amount of Dees turned up than had been at Motherwell in February, which was Dundee’s last win but a yet another sprinkling of that Neil McCann magic has put the smile back on their faces.
There are still four huge games to go but this was a vital win in possibly the club’s biggest game since promotion three years ago.
Motherwell: Samson, Hammell, Heneghan, McHugh, Moult, Bowman ( Ainsworth 58’), Cadden, Lasley (Gordon 71’), Campbell, McDonald (Clay 73’)
Subs: Griffiths, Jules, McMillan, Turnbull
Goals – Moult (50’)
Booked – McHugh (90+3’)
Dundee: Bain, Holt, Vincent, O’Dea, Hateley, O’Hara (Higgins 81’), Ross (El Bahktaoui 84’), McGowan, Haber, Wighton (Williams 63’), Gomis
Subs: Mitchell, El Bahktaoui, Ojamaa, Gadzhalov, Smith
Goals – O’Hara (44’), Haber (49’, 56’)
Booked – Gomis (29’), Haber (90+3’)
Referee – Steven McLean
Assistant Referees – Graham Chambers and Anthony Cooper
Fourth Official – Steven Kirkland
Crowd: 4919 (1259 Dees)