Mark O’Hara was the Dark Blue hero tonight scoring both goals as Dundee beat Rangers 2-1 at Dens Park. O’Hara’s first goal midway through the second half was quickly cancelled out by Josh Windass’s equaliser. However, when O’Hara scored again 10 minutes from full time there was no way back for Rangers.
Both clubs made only one change to their starting line-ups. Josh Meekings came in for suspended Dee skipper Darren O’Dea, and Declan John replaced Lee Hodson for Rangers.
The first action was a chance for Rangers after four minutes. Kenny Miller stole in beyond the far post but headed Daniel Candeias’s cross straight into Elliot Parish’s arms. Ryan Jack then went close with an 18 yard shot that was deflected narrowly wide.
Dundee were competing well in midfield in the first half, but their attacks always petered out with weak crosses and some slack passes. The Dark Blues best effort before the break was a fierce, rising shot from 25 yards by Faissal El Bakhtaoui that Wes Foderingham did well to tip over. Play was racing from end to end and Alfredo Morales went close with a low shot from distance that skimmed the side netting. Almost immediately Foderingham was back in action, saving Paul McGowan’s volley from 16 yards after neat skill on the wing from Roarie Deacon.
The longer the first half wore on the more dangerous Rangers’ attacks became. The visitors may have often given the ball away in the Dundee half, but when their attacking clicked they looked very slick. Ryan Jack’s superb through pass cut open the Dundee defence, but Elliot Parish made the save of the match to deny Candeias. The Dee keeper earned the luck that came his way shortly afterwards when he was left helpless as Josh Meekings swiped at a Candeias cross, slicing the ball off the face of his own crossbar.
Both teams made enforced subsitutions to replace injured strikers as the first half drew to a close. Marcus Haber limped off, to be replaced by Sofien Moussa. Morales collided painfully with the post as he tried to reach a cross at the end of a dangerous Rangers raid. He tried to play on but had to make way for Eduardo Herrera in stoppage time.
Rangers had been building ominous momentum late in the first half and their attacks had been much more consistently dangerous. Their fast passing and movement had looked likely to bring a goal but after the break, perhaps missing Morales, they never regained the fluency of these moves.
The visitors had most of the possession in the first 20 minutes of the second half, but the Dundee midfield stopped them creating real chances, and the Dark Blue defence dealt well with everything that reached them. Sofien Moussa gave Rangers a scare when he beat Foderingham in a race for Declan John’s backpass. The keeper’s challenge brought Moussa down, but the Dee striker recovered to switch the ball to Deacon, whose low shot was saved by Foderingham.
Elliot Parish had a quieter game after the break. He did beat away a Miller volley, but it was a routine, comfortable save. Apart from their goal that was Rangers’ only noteworthy effort in a second half when their cutting edge was blunted by the determined Dee.
As Rangers’ became more ragged the Dark Blues grew increasingly confident. After 65 minutes they scored the goal the supporters were desperate to see. Jon Aurtenetxe sent a free kick from wide on the right into the penalty area. Rangers stood watching as the ball broke off a defender to give Mark O’HARA a clear shot from ten yards. He wasted no time in blasting the ball into the corner before setting off on an ecstatic celebration.
Frustratingly the Dark Blues couldn’t settle on their lead and the match was all square only four minutes later. Dundee tried to break out of defence, but Moussa lost the ball when he was bundled over from behind just inside the Dee half. Dundee had fleetingly lost their shape and Rangers took swift advantage. McCrorie’s cross was cleared only as far as Josh WINDASS, who had time to take a touch and score with a fierce shot from the edge of the penalty area.
After the goals the game fell back into the pattern of Rangers attacking, mainly ineffectually, and Dundee trying to catch them on the break. Rangers’ only effort on goal was a angled shot by Miller that flew across goal when the ball finally reached him via a series of deflections.
After 78 minutes Dundee made the crucial substitution that brought about the winner. Scott Allan came on for Roarie Deacon, and played in the advanced midfield “number 10” role. He had been in that position for less than two minutes when his perseverence kept an attack going. After shaping to shoot he slipped a beautiful pass through for Mark O’HARA to burst past the last defender and hammer the winner past Foderingham. The midfielder has never failed to score against Rangers at Dens, and this was his fourth goal in three Rangers visits since he joined Dundee last year.
There were 10 minutes of normal time, and two minutes injury time left, but Rangers couldn’t worry the Dundee defence and failed to create any further danger. The Dark Blues saw out the game with delightfully little stress for the fans. The final whistle saw players and coaching staff celebrating together on the pitch as the Dees in the stands rose to show their heartfelt appreciation. Beating a big club like Rangers was a hugely enjoyable way to end the winless run.
Dundee can play better than they did tonight, but they were rewarded for their determination to dig out a win. At times they abandoned the attractive passing they have tried to play, and mixed up their game with some long balls. There was a clear belief that they could get the job done, and the calm, professional way they closed out the game, ensuring the ball was mostly in the Rangers half during stoppage time, was impressive. The Dark Blues looked a real team, all over the park, and they must now build on this tremendous result.
Dundee FC 4-2-3-1
Kerr (c), Hendry, Meekings, Aurtenetxe
Deacon (Allan 78), McGowan, El Bakhtaoui
Haber (Moussa 43)
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Holt, Leitch-Smith, Etxabeguren, Curran.
Goals: O’Hara (65, 80).
Booked: McGowan (foul on McCrorie).
Tavernier, McCrorie, Wilson, John
Candeias (Hardie 83), Windass, Miller (c)
Morelos (Herrera 45+1)
Unused subs: Alnwick (gk), Hodson, Bates, Barjonas, Pena.
Goal: Windass (69).
Booked: Holt (handball), Windass (dissent).
Referee: Kevin Clancy. Assistants: Frank Connor, Gary Hilland. Fourth official: Stephen Finnie.
Report: James Christie.