Dundee put in a disappointing performance to lose 2-0 to St Johnstone in Perth this afternoon. Saints tied up the points with early goals from Paul Paton and Blair Alston. The home side were able to control the game from then on, and Dundee never looked like turning ample possession into a comeback.
The Dark Blues only change to the starting line-up was Kosta Gadzhjalov retaining his place after coming on for Julen Etxabeguren when the Basque defender was badly injured against Partick. Saints made two changes; Tom Scobbie and Graham Cummins came in for Steven Anderson and Keith Watson.
Dundee started confidently, moving the ball around promisingly, whereas Saints struggled to hold onto the ball. However, the Dark Blues offered no threat, and as soon as Saints managed to get the ball into the Dundee penalty area they looked dangerous.
With just four minutes gone the Dundee defence went missing when Steven MacLean’s cross found Graham Cummins unmarked eight yards out, but the header was weak and straight to Scott Bain. St Johnstone soon worked out that quick, long balls aimed at their strikers would pay dividends and this route brought two goals.
After 11 minutes a long ball found Cummins wide in the penalty area, and he headed back into a gaping space in the centre of the penalty area for Paul PATON to run in and head past Bain. Seven minutes later another long ball was headed on by MacLean for Blair ALSTON to run on and score with a fierce, low shot from 18 yards. In between the two goals Danny Swanson went close with a dipping shot from the edge of the penalty area as Dundee’s defence struggling to close down Saints.
Dundee were playing some neat but ineffective football; they couldn’t put together any moves that troubled the home defence. It wasn’t a case of poor final balls; the Dark Blues might have been dominating possession, but they weren’t getting into positions to play dangerous passes or crosses into the Saints’ penalty area.
St Johnstone played the first half hour like the away team, sitting back, keeping tight and looking dangerous on the break. In the last 15 minutes of the half they opened up and played their best football of the afternoon. The Dark Blues were surprisingly hesitant in defence as Saints passed their way into good positions. Swanson ended a smooth break with a wayward volley. Bain had to touch over a MacLean drive and Richard Foster sent a low drive narrowly wide at the end of Saint’s best move of the match
Dundee started the second half on the front foot and a lengthy, probing attack ended with James Vincent’s fierce angled shot being parried by Zander Clark. That was one of the few times in the match that Dundee managed to get through to Saints’ keeper.
Without playing as well as they had in the latter stages of the first half St Johnstone were controlling a messy match. Paton sent a snap shot just past the post from 25 yards, and Saints made a mess of a chance to kill off the Dee with a fast break from a Dundee corner. For once they were over-elaborate and MacLean failed to get a shot in.
Faissal El Bakhatoui came on for Henrik Ojamaa 10 minutes after the interval, and Danny Williams replaced Craig Wighton for the last 20 minutes. El Bakhtaoui connected cleanly with a Williams’ free kick but his goalbound volley spun off a defender and wide. That was after 82 minutes, and the remainder of the match was devoid of incident as Saints held Dundee off comfortably. The home side might have shown more ambition on the break to chase a third goal, but they had no need to take any chances.
Dundee were a long sort of their best, or even an acceptable standard, when they had the ball today. Too many passes went astray. For long periods the only passes that found their man were simple, safe passes that gave Saints plenty of time to react. Whenever the Dark Blues tried to penetrate Saints with faster, more penetrating passing they invariably lost possession.
The game had three distinct phases, and St Johnstone were in control of each, even when the Dark Blues were returning meaninglessly impressive possession stats. Saints went long in the first half hour, posing problems that the Dundee defence couldn’t handle. Towards the end of the half they varied their approach and attacked with some good and dangerous passing.
Fortunately for the Dee they didn’t sustain that quality of play after the break, but they ensured that the game was played on their terms. The whole of the second half was a technically poor affair; there was little entertainment, but Saints’ pressing, battling and organisation ensured that they always benefitted from the constant breakdowns in play.
Frustratingly Dundee couldn’t repeat any of the high tempo, intense passing and attacking that was so exciting only a fortnight ago at Motherwell. Today they fell a long way short of the standard they set for themselves that day, and that was deeply disappointing for fans, coaching staff and players alike.
St Johnstone 4-4-2
Foster, Scobbie, Shaughnessy, Easton
Alston (Thomson 88), Paton, Craig, Swanson (Davidson 77)
Unused subs: Mannus (gk), Smith, Watson, Hurst, Hunter.
Goals: Paton (11), Alston (18).
Booked: MacLean (foul on Kerr).
Dundee FC 4-4-2
Kerr, Gadzhalov, O’Dea (c), Holt
O’Hara, McGowan, Vincent, Wighton (Williams 72)
Ojamaa (El Bakhtaoui 55), Haber
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Hateley, Ross, Klok, Gomis.
Booked: O’Hara (foul on Easton), El Bakhtaoui (simulation), Williams (foul on Alston).
Attendance: 4,195 (1,426 Dees).
Referee: Andrew Dallas. Assistants: Alan Mulvanny, Andy Milne. Fourth official: Craig Napier.
Report: James Christie.