Dundee stumbled out of the Scottish Cup against St Mirren who put aside their struggles in the Championship to earn a deserved 2-0 win. John Sutton put the Buddies ahead midway through the first half. When Jack Baird added a second goal shortly after half time the Dark Blues couldn’t lift their game to stage a fightback and St Mirren closed out the tie comfortably.
The Dark Blues were unchanged from the team that beat St Johnstone on Hogmanay. St Mirren featured three former Dees, Gary MacKenzie, John Sutton and captain Gary Irvine, who will always be fondly remembered at Dens as one of the Deefiant heroes.
Dundee almost got off to an ideal start when Marcus Haber smashed a shot off the post after Tom Hateley had created the opening with a bulldozing run at Saints defence. This looked a promising start, but the Dee couldn’t sustain that intensity. Worryingly their attacks lacked the pace, urgency and sharp passing that had unnerved St Johnstone in the last match before the break.
Midway through the first half Cammy Kerr went close when he enjoyed a fortunate break of the ball that allowed him to cut infield and try his luck from 25 yards, but Saints keeper Billy O’Brien, making his debut on loan from Manchester City, touched his shot past the post. A minute later it was St Mirren’s turn to get a lucky break and they took full advantage. The ball squirmed away from Paul McGowan’s tackle on Stephen Mallan, leaving John SUTTON in the clear and he ran on to score with a low shot past Scott Bain.
It took Dundee a painfully long time to put St Mirren’s defence under any serious pressure. For the next 15 minutes the Buddies defended comfortably and looked ominously dangerous on the break, with Stephen Mallan looking a particular threat.
With the clock approaching the 40 minute mark and the home fans becoming restless the Dark Blues at last started to turn the screw on St Mirren’s defence. Faissal El Bakhtaoui dropped deep, spun into space and sent Craig Wighton through, but O’Brien tipped his angled drive over the bar. The corner was taken short to Kevin Holt, who swung over a perfectly flighted cross for Marcus Haber. From six yards out he sent his header just outside the post when he seemed certain to score.
At last Dundee were moving the ball around with sufficient pace and accuracy to cause the Buddies problems. Haber brought a good save from O’Brien with a quickly taken shot after Wighton had teed up the chance. Right at the end of the half Wighton went close with a flick from Hateley’s pass.
Any hopes that Dundee would sustain the improvement into the second half and take charge of the tie were quickly crushed. The Dark Blues conceded a soft goal only two minutes after the restart and never looked like fighting their way back into the game. Gary MacKenzie’s header from a Stephen Mallan corner was blocked and the ball broke into space for Craig Wighton to clear. The Dee youngster lost his footing, allowing Mallan to nip in and fire a low cross back into the goalmouth where Jack BAIRD shot high into the net.
The goal rocked the Dee and again gave a surge of confidence to St Mirren. This time Dundee failed to snap out of the slump and never had the control of the game that might have offered some hope. The Dark Blues’ movement, passing and composure were all well short of the standard required. Lewis Morgan came close to a third goal when he wheeled onto a knockdown from a corner, but Scott Bain’s reflex save pushed the ball over the bar.
Michael Duffy and Danny Williams came off the bench to replace Tom Hateley and Faissal El Bakhtaoui, but to no avail. Dundee simply couldn’t build any threatening moves and were rarely able to find any space in St Mirren’s half. Only one chance came the Dark Blues’ way, and that was hardly the result of fluent attacking. Gary Irvine mishit a backpass and Michael Duffy’s shot took a deflection and looped over O’Brien to the far post where Craig Wighton knocked it wide under pressure.
St Mirren remained dangerous on the break, with Stephen Mallan a constant threat. David Clarkson was the fourth former Dee to make an appearance for the Buddies and he had a chance shortly after coming off the bench. Scott Bain saved with his feet at the expense of a corner, which was half cleared to Pal Fjelde who volleyed just too high from 18 yards.
Referee Mr Madden played five minutes of injury time but it was a measure of Dundee’s ineffectual performance that they couldn’t muster a single noteworthy attack in the added time. The Dark Blues slipped out of the cup in a style that left no cause for complaint. They came nowhere near earning a place in the 5th round. The energy and invention that proved too much for Premiership top 6 sides Heart and St Johnstone before the break were entirely absent. The Dark Blues were sluggish and out of touch for almost the whole match today, and St Mirren emerged as surprisingly comfortable winners.
Dundee FC 4-2-3-1
Kerr Etxabeguren, Gadzhalov, Holt
Hateley (Williams 57), McGowan (c)
El Bakhtaoui (Duffy 57), O’Hara, Wighton
Unused subs: Mitchell (gk), Vincent, Ross, Curran, Gomis.
St Mirren 4-1-4-1
Fjelde, Baird, MacKenzie, Irvine (c)
McAllister (MacPherson 90+2), Magennis (Whyte 73), Mallan, Morgan
Sutton (Clarkson 84)
Unused subs: Langfield (gk), Webster, McLear, O’Keefe.
Goals: Sutton (24), Baird (47).
Attendance: 3,622 (523 St Mirren supporters).
Referee: Bobby Madden. Assistants: Graham Chambers, Jordan Stokoe.
Report: James Christie.