Dundee dug out a hard fought win in their first home league match of the season, seeing off Ayr United 1-0. Andrew Nelson came off the bench to head a second half winner. Without being near their best the team kept grafting and did enough to get over the line and claim all three points.
The Dark Blues made three changes to the side that started against Dunfermline. Jamie Ness came back from injury, Declan McDaid kept his place after coming off the bench, and to the delight of the supporters, Kane Hemmings returned after a three year absence. Josh Meekings, Shaun Byrne, and Andrew Nelson moved onto the subs’ bench. Ayr’s only change was Jamie Adams starting in the place of Sam Roscoe.
Dundee started eagerly and the first 10 minutes were spent almost entirely in Ayr’s half. Kane Hemmings went close when he found space on the end of Paul McGowan’s pass but his shot flicked off Jamie Adams and over the bar.
After a rocky opening Ayr came strongly into the game. Steven Kelly sent a 20 yard free kick a couple of feet over the bar, and Alan Forrest put in two angled shots. Jack Hamilton saved the first and Jordon Forster blocked the second for a corner from which Adams’ header flew well over the bar.
The Dark Blues had lost some of their early zip and weren’t giving the strikers the service they should expect. Declan McDaid sent a 25 yard shot fizzing pas the post but Dundee weren’t creating enough problems for Ayr’s defence.
While the Dee were stuttering in attack during the later stages of the first haldf Ayr were finding space more effectively from fewer attacks. It took a perfectly timed last ditch tackle by Cammy Kerr to stop Luke McCowan as he was about to shoot.
The Dark Blues had to improve in the second half and they did enough to restrict Ayr’s danger and create some chances themselves without being fluent or convincing.
Good pressing in the final third won possession, giving Paul McGowan space to send a chip over goalie Ross Doohan with the ball drifting wide with Hemmings not quite able to reach it.
Dundee switched to a 4-4-2 formation when Josh Todd came on for Paul McGowan. Then midway through the second half Andrew Nelson came on for Danny Johnson.
Both goalkeepers were called on to make fine saves when fortunate rebounds put players clear. First Jack Hamilton stuck out a foot to turn Forrest’s shot wide, and then Doohan spread himself to block from Hemmings.
The Dark Blues seemed to take heart from that close thing and the crowd started to back the players noisily. As the pressure built up on Ayr’s defence it looked as if a goal might come at last.
After 74 minutes it finally arrived to the massive relief of the Dens faithful. Jordan Marshall found space on the left to send a well flighted cross into the danger area and Andrew NELSON scored with a finely judged glancing header inside the far post.
Dundee were on top now and threatened to add to their lead. Hemmings went close from 20 yards after a clever turn and shot.
As they chased the game Ayr started to rush and make mistakes. Almost all their attacks broke down without threatening Jack Hamilton’s goal. Their only dangerous move was stopped by a fine interception by Kerr.
Only a remarkable reflex save by Doohan at point blank range from Josh Todd stopped the Dee killing the game after fine work on the right by Kerr and Nelson.
Deep into injury time Ayr did win a corner, which was delivered straight into the hands of Hamilton.
Both teams had spells on top during this match but Dundee edged the crucial moments at either end. Ayr will surely be amongst the teams challenging near the top of the Championship and this was an important win.
Dundee will play better this season, and they will certainly have to. This win was about effort and attitude rather than skill and style. Dundee kept working, pressing more effectively after half time, and turned the game their way. The Dark Blues won only one league match at home last season and this was just the sort of game in which they continually came off second best.
After a couple of aberrations last week it was good to see the defence claim another clean sheet. The midfield lacked creativity for the first hour but improved in the last 30 minutes when they stepped up their game and gave Dundee a decisive edge as the game reached its climax.
It was hardly pretty but this was definitely a day when points on the board mattered more than style.
Dundee FC 4-1-3-2
Kerr, McGhee, Forster, Marshall
Ness (c), McGowan (Todd 56), McDaid
Hemmings (Byrne 84), Johnson (Nelson 67)
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Meekings, Moore, Anderson.
Goal: Nelson (74).
Ayr United 4-3-3
Geggan, Bell, Adams (Roscoe 80), Harvie
Murdoch, Docherty (c) (McGuffie 76), Kelly
McCowan, Moffat (Doolan 71), Forrest
Unused subs: Hare-Reid (gk), Kerr, Ferguson, McKenzie.
Booked: Docherty (foul on Forster), Kelly (foul on Robertson), Geggan (foul on Robertson).
Attendance: 5,520 (242 away fans).
Referee: Alan Newlands. Assistants: Graeme Stewart, Steven Traynor.
Report: James Christie.