Dundee earned a vital point in a 1-1 draw against Ross County this afternoon in Neil McCann’s first match as interim manager at Dens Park. The Staggies dominated the early stages and were well worth their early lead from Liam Boyce’s goal. However, the Dee came back strongly and spent most of the second half laying siege to County’s goal. Captain Darren O’Dea equalised from the penalty spot but County survived fierce pressure to take a point.
Neil McCann named exactly the same starting line-up and substitutes as he deployed in last week’s win at Kilmarnock. County’s only change was the return of top scorer Liam Boyce from injury, with Kenny van der Weg moving to the bench.
The game started at a frantic pace, with the ball zipping from end to end but County ominously showing more composure. Scott Bain saved superbly from Michael Gardyne, who had forced his way through Kevin Holt’s tackle to shoot.
The opening goal was delayed for only a minute, however. Martin Woods headed a long cross down into the goalmouth and Liam BOYCE raced in to get a slight touch that was enough to leave Bain helpless.
The Staggies were posing tricky problems for the Dee defence with neat passing attacking moves. One of these almost brought a second goal when Curran was played in behind the defence, only to prod the ball wide as Bain swiftly closed him down.
After a difficult opening 20 minutes Dundee started to play their way into the game, but County continued to look dangerous on the break. It took a great covering tackle by Paul McGowan on Ryan Dow to end the danger after the Staggies broke quickly down the left.
Dundee started to test County’s defence with good passing and movement, but too often good moves ended with poor final balls. The Dee’s efforts on goal were largely restricted to long range shots with Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Cammy Kerr both testing County keeper Scott Fox.
Cammy Kerr had been finding space on the left of County’s defence, where wing back Ryan Dow had looked more comfortable with the wing side of his role than the back. When Dow clutched his knee after a collision he was swiftly replaced by Kenny van der Weg as County tried to get to grips with Kerr’s raiding.
In first half injury time Dundee went agonisingly close when Kevin Holt swung a cross deep into the penalty area. Paul McGowan’s volley flew inches past the far post with Marcus Haber lunging at the ball, not quite able to turn it into the net.
If the Staggies had much the better of the opening 20 minutes the Dee had turned the game round to become the stronger, more dangerous side for the rest of the first half. This patterm was maintained after the break as the Dark Blues grew increasingly dominant. Nick Ross replaced Tom Hateley at the interval and his patient passing proved influential.
County started to tire, conceding space and possession too easily. In one impressive run Cammy Kerr powered through the midfield, only to be fouled by Martin Woods before he could reach the penalty area. A goalmouth scramble following a corner ended with Tim Chow heading the ball off the line after Marcus Haber had nodded the ball beyond Fox.
El Bakhtaoui sent a shot from 25 yards dipping inches over the crossbar, and Kevin Holt came within inches of earning a penalty after his driving run from the left was ended by O’Brien’s trip on the edge of the penalty area. Kerr’s free kick was blocked by the defensive wall.
Kevin Gomis was substituted by Kosta Gadzhalov midway through the half after picking up an injury. With the Dark Blues having set up camp deep in County’s half the forced change had no impact on the home defence.
Finally, the Dee got the breakthrough they deserved. Nick Ross played a beautiful pass inside Craig Curran for Cammy Kerr, who was pushed over by the County midfielder 10 yards from goal. Skipper Darren O’Dea lashed the spot kick into the roof of the net.
The supporters had been backing the players noisily, but equalise cranked the volume even higher as the Dee turned the screw on County, looking for a winner.
Marcus Haber flashed a shot wide, and Mark O’Hara twice saw goalbound shots blocked as the Staggies defenders dug deep to keep Dundee at bay.
After 84 minutes Haber missed the best chance of the match when McGowan’s cross found him free only five yards from goal. He headed straight at Fox, and County were able to survive until the final whistle.
A win would have guaranteed that Dundee were safe from the play-off, but the supporters response at the final whistle showed that they regarded this as a good point; it takes the Dee five points clear of Hamilton and removes any possibility of automatic relegation. The team’s performance over the last hour after a difficult opening was full of passion and drive with plenty of good football.
Again this was a good team display, which the fans appreciated. The Dark Blues are not safe yet, but on this showing they can approach the final two matches full of confidence.
Dundee FC 4-4-1-1
Kerr, Gomis (Gadzhalov 67), O’Dea (c), Holt
O’Hara, Hateley (Ross at half time), Vincent, El Bakhtaoui (Wighton 85)
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Williams, Ojamaa, Higgins.
Goal: O’Dea (75 pen).
Booked: McGowan (dissent), Vincent (foul on Woods), O’Dea (excessive celebration).
Ross County 3-5-1-1
Naismith, Davies, Fraser
Gardyne, O’Brien (Tumilty 72), Chow, Woods, Dow (van der Weg 34)
Curran (Schalk 78)
Unused subs: McCarey, (gk), Routis, Franks, Dykes.
Goal: Boyce (3).
Booked: Fraser (foul on O’Hara), Woods (foul on McGowan), Gardyne (off the ball incident involving El Bakhtaoui), O’Brien (foul on Holt), Tumilty (foul on Holt).
Attendance: 6,812 (248 away fans).
Referee: Nick Walsh. Assistants: Graeme Stewart, Willie Conquer. Fourth official: Craig Thomson.
Report: James Christie.