The Dark Blues claimed their first league win of the season defeating St Johnstone 3-2 at Dens Park this afternoon in a breathless, rip-roaring match. Dundee were 1-0 up at half time thanks to an early goal from new loan signing A-Jay Leitch-Smith. When he added a second just after the hour the points seemed sure to stay at Dens, but three successful penalties in eight minutes set up a nerve-jangling conclusion. Liam Craig’s spot kick for Saints was cancelled out by Sofien Moussa before Craig scored his second penalty. Darren O’Dea picked up a second yellow card when he conceded the final penalty, but the Dark Blues held off Saints late charge to claim a fully deserved win.
The Dark Blues made two changes. Captain Darren O’Dea returned and A-Jay Leitch-Smith made his first start. They replaced Kerr Waddell and Scott Allan who were on the bench. Saints also had two changes. On loan striker Denny Johnstone started for the first time, taking Stefan Scougall’s place, and Liam Craig came in for Murray Davidson.
Dundee looked nothing like a team at the bottom of the table as they began with bright and attractive attacking football. St Johnstone’s defence was soon under pressure and keeper Allan Mannus was fortunate to escape when he dropped Cammy Kerr’s cross under Sofien Moussa’s challenge; Faisall El Bakhtaoui’s follow up shot was blocked.
Mannus’s luck didn’t hold and he was at fault when Dundee took the lead after nine minutes. Darren O’Dea header from Roarie Deacon’s free kick was heading inside the far post, but should have been a easy save for Mannus. Instead the keeper fumbled the ball and A-Jay LEITCH-SMITH helped himself to a simple goal before he could recover.
Saints had their best spell of the first half in the few minutes after falling behind and could have grabbed a quick equaliser. Michael O’Halloran skipped past Jack Hendry and Darren O’Dea before Scott Bain pushed his angled shot round the post. When the inswinging corner came over Bain had to clear it with his feet off the goalline.
St Johnstone struggled to cope with Dundee’s fast attacks. From one such break El Bakhtaoui’s shot was deflected into the path of Kevin Holt, whose cross shot flew inches beyond Leitch-Smith’s attempt to turn it into the net.
Roarie Deacon had needed prolonged treatment after an early foul, and he was replaced by Randy Wolters. The Dutch winger was immediately in the action, ending a good run with a 20 yard shot that Mannus saved.
Dundee’s pressing, hard running and clever passing prevented St Johnstone from settling into any rhythm and the away defence had to work hard to contain the eager Dark Blue forwards swarming round their penalty area.
The Dark Blues were well worth the half time lead and continued their fine form into the second half. A fast, sweeping move ended with Mannus saving well from El Bakhtaoui’s fierce dipping shot.
Dundee’s pressing and quick passing was creating plenty of space for Dark Blue attacks and a second goal looked increasingly likely as Saints became more and more ragged. Finally it arrived, midway through the second half. Kevin Holt’s free kick was headed out as far as Lewis Spence, who nodded it back into the danger area. LEITCH-SMITH took a lovely first touch and lashed a great finish into the roof of the net from eight yards.
The more that Saints pushed forward the more vulnerable they looked to a fast counter-attack and Dundee came close to a third shortly after the second goal, but Mannus just managed to cut out Wolter’s low cross.
St Johnstone had struggled to mount any serious threat on Scott Bain’s goal, but won a penalty out of nothing when Scott Bain misjudged a long ball on the left hand edge of the penalty area and his attempted clearance caught substitute Graham Cummins instead. Liam CRAIG scored the penalty.
A minute later Steven Anderson headed into the Dundee net from a corner, only to be penalised for pushing. Whilst Saints were moaning at the referee Dundee attacked and Richard Foster pushed Leitch-Smith over as he was closing in on Mannus and about to shoot. Sofien MOUSSA duly restored the Dee’s two goal lead from the spot.
Dundee were well on top now and looked fully capably of extending their lead, or at least playing out the game comfortably. However, as the match became increasingly tousy and ill-tempered, Saints were given a final lifeline with yet another penalty. After being booked a few minutes earlier Darren O’Dea pushed Anderson as a free kick were coming into the box and Dundee suffered a double blow. Liam Craig scored his second penalty and O’Dea was sent off after collecting his second yellow.
Young Kerr Waddell replaced Sofien Moussa for the last seven minutes of normal time and five minutes extra time. Home supporters’ nerves were on edge but the Dark Blue players were much cooler. The young defence held Saints at bay, and Dundee continued to look dangerous on the attack.
From back to front Dundee impressed today, with some outstanding performances. A-Jay Leitch-Smith will deservedly take most of the headlines, but all the midfield and forwards had a fine game. Lewis Spence in particular, starting his first league game at Dens, was particularly effective in central midfield alongside the equally impressive Glen Kamara. Up front Dundee were fast, clever, and furiously hard working. The defence stopped Saints creating a chance in open play in the second half and ensured the points stayed where they belonged in the frantic finalé.
Dundee FC 4-4-2
Kerr, Hendry, O’Dea (c), Holt
Deacon (Wolters 22), Spence, Kamara, El Bakthaoui
Leitch-Smith, Moussa (Waddell 83)
Unused subs: Parish (gk), Allan, O’Hara, Aurtenetxe, McGowan.
Goals: Leitch-Smith (9, 64). Moussa (77 pen).
Booked: Bain (foul on Cummins), O’Dea (fouls on Scougall and Foster).
Sent off: O’Dea (two bookings).
St Johnstone 4-4-2
Foster, Shaughnessy, Anderson (c), Easton
Wotherspoon (Thomson 66), Paton, Craig, O’Halloran (Scougall 68)
Johnstone (Cummins 50), MacLean
Unused subs: Clark (gk), Tanser, Millar, Gilchrist.
Goals: Craig (75 pen, 83 pen).
Booked: O’Halloran (foul on Kerr), Craig (foul on Spence).
Attendance: 6,001 (1,127 away supporters).
Referee: Alan Muir. Assistants: Frank Connor, Calum Spence. Fourth official: Andrew Dallas.
Report: James Christie.