The Dark Blues lost 2-1 at McDiarmid Park in today’s lunchtime match. Steven Anderson put St Johnstone ahead after an hour, with Danny Swanson adding the second from the penalty spot. Rory Loy’s penalty pulled a goal back for the Dee, but Saints held on for a win they deserved for their second half performance.
Dundee made two changes from last week. Darren O’Dea returned from injury, replacing Kosta Gadzhalov in central defence, and Nick Ross came in for the injured Mark O’Hara in midfield. Saints’ only change was David Wotherspoon starting instead of Blair Alston.
The match got off to a slow start and never really picked up in a first half during which neither side looked sharp enough to deserve the lead or lift the fans from their seats.
In the early stages Saints were moving marginally more smoothly, but without penetrating a capable Dark Blue defence. The nearest the home side came to an early breakthrough was when Steven MacLean peeled off beyond the far post to head Brian Easton’s deep cross back across goal, but Scott Bain grabbed the ball to snuff out the danger.
Dundee gradually stepped up their game, pressing more effectively in midfield and for a few minutes showed some promise with some neat passing. The Dee passed up a great chance at the end of their best move of the half after 12 minutes. With only keeper Zander Clark to beat from 12 yards Yordi Teijsse shot straight at the goalie after Paul McGowan had raced into the penalty area on the end of a clever pass from Faissal El Bakhtaoui.
When Liam Craig handled just outside Saints’ penalty area Clark had to push Tom Hateley’s free kick round the post for a corner. After this brighter spell from Dundee the match swung back in Saints’ favour, without the hosts ever looking really convincing.
Murray Davidson caused a scare in the Dee penalty area when defensive hesitation allowed him to steal the ball but his pass flew across goal without finding a Saints player. The Dark Blues raced to the other end, with Danny Williams bursting into the box, creating space for El Bakhtaoui to have a go, only for his shot to be deflected for a corner.
After that flurry of excitement the game drifted disappointingly to the half time whistle. Danny Swanson, who was Saints most creative and dangerous player, tried a shot from 20 yards that Bain took easily, and that was the only noteworthy incident in the last 15 minutes of the half.
Shortly before half time Faissal El Bakhtaoui, who had been guilty of losing possession too often, needed treatment and was replaced by Michael Duffy.
The Dark Blues started the second half in promising fashion, putting Saints’ defence under pressure with James Vincent and Tom Hateley both having shots blocked. Nothing came of this spell, however, and the match soon settled back into a scrappy battle with neither defence looking in any trouble.
Ominously for Dundee the midfield and forwards couldn’t hold the ball and the Dundee defence was having to work harder than their hosts. There was little direct threat on the Dee’s goal, though Swanson had a fierce shot from 20 yards that Scott Bain had to gather at the second attempt.
After looking solid in defence for the first hour the Dark Blues’ defence conceded a bad goal from a set piece. Liam Craig’s free kick from the right found Steven ANDERSON running in unmarked at the far post, and the Saints’ captain scored with a well taken volley.
The Dark Blues couldn’t afford to concede the first goal when they are going through this poor spell and never looked like saving the game. St Johnstone’s defence was always well organised, and the midfield pressing meant that Dundee invariably ended up turning backwards or losing the ball.
The harder the Dee chased an equaliser the more space Saints had to play and go for a second goal. That came from the penalty spot, though the award was softer than a half boiled egg. Kevin Gomis and Steven MacLean both went up for a cross, both missed, and Mr Dallas pointed to the spot. Danny SWANSON scored, and the points looked safe for Saints.
Michael Coulson nearly added a third goal straight after coming off the bench, but his looping header from Swanson’s dinked cross came back off the crossbar.
Dundee tried hard to get back into the game, but Saints held them off comfortably and looked more likely to pick the Dee off on the break and score again. It was something of a surprise when the normally reliable home defence gave the Dee some hope by conceding a daft penalty after 87 minutes. Anderson used both hands to push Yordi Teijsse in the back as they challenged for a long throw. Rory Loy had come on for Tom Hateley, and he scored emphatically from the penalty spot.
In the three minutes of injury time Dundee camped out in the Saints’ half. The ball pinged around the home penalty area a few times, but apart from an O’Dea header that was hacked out of the six yard box, St Johnstone’s defence always looked in control of the situation. That very late charge was the only time in the match that St Johnstone were under any real pressure, and they held on for a win they deserved. They did not play fluent or exciting football today, but they were able to stop Dundee creating any real danger, especially in the second half, and calmly took advantage of the mistake which gave them the vital opening goal and turned the match decisively in their favour.
St Johnstone 4-4-2
Foster, Shaughnessy, Anderson (c), Easton
Craig, Wotherspoon, Davidson, Swanson (Paton 88)
Kane (Coulson 79), MacLean
Unused subs: Mannus (gk), Alston, Millar, Gordon, Cummins.
Goals: Anderson (61), Swanson (74 pen).
Booked: Davidson (simulation).
Dundee FC 3-5-2
Gomis, O’Dea (c), Holt
Hateley (Loy 75), McGowan, Vincent, Ross (Wighton 62), Williams
El Bakhtaoui (Duffy 41), Teijsse
Unused subs: Mitchell (gk), Etxabeguren, Gadzhalov, Kerr.
Booked: Holt (foul on Davidson), Gomis (foul on MacLean).
Goal: Loy (87 pen).
Referee: Andrew Dallas. Assistants: Graham Chambers, Andy Milne. Fourth official: Willie Collum.
Report: James Christie.