Dundee recovered from a poor start to draw 1-1 against Hearts in the Easter Sunday game at Dens Park. Both goals came in the first half. Ross Callachan gave this visitor an early lead but Sofien Moussa grabbed a deserved equaliser. The Dark Blues had the edge for the rest of the match, but had to settle for a point.
Dundee made two changes from the team that faced Aberdeen 15 days ago. Jon Aurtenetxe and Simon Murray came in for Kevin Holt and A-Jay Leitch-Smith, who were both on the bench along with Craig Wighton, making his first appearance in a match squad this season. Hearts’ only change to bring in Ross Callachan for Michael Smith.
The Dark Blues got off to the worst possible start and were caught snoozing as Hearts helped themselve to a goal after two minutes. In the build up the Jam Tarts were able to play the ball around far too easily and no Dee reacted quickly enough when they went for goal. Ross CALLACHAN cut in from the right and curled an angled shot around Parish from 16 yards.
It shouldn’t take an avoidable early goal to stir the team into decisive action, but the Dundee players did react well to that setback. Dundee could have been on level terms only two minutes later. The ever cool and composed Glem Kamara sent Simon Murray past the last defenders with an incisive pass. Murray took the ball on, but his attempted dink over McLaughlin was well saved by the Hearts keeper.
Roarie Deacon was causing Hearts serious problems running at Aaron Hughes. With Paul McGowan consistently finding space and using it creatively in the hole between the midfield and strikers, Dundee were inventive and dangerous.
Murray went close again, lashing the ball over the bar under pressure at the end of a fast break led by McGowan. The play was flowing mostly towards the visitors’ goal, but Don Cowie forced a good save from Elliott Parish after Hearts worked a neat, short corner.
Dundee’s pressing and Deacon’s crossing always looked producing an equaliser, but the Dee had to survive a scare before it arrived. Hearts were erratic and frequently careless, but every so often they would put together a high quality passing move. One ended with a good Parish save from Kyle Lafferty’s quick 15 yard shot. The save was vital because the Dee were level within a minute. Mark O’Hara found Deacon in space and the wide player had time to look up and put over a wonderful curling cross between the keeper and defenders for Sofien MOUSSA to arrive at the far post and bundle the ball into the net.
The goal gave the Dee renewed impetus and Hearts picked up a couple of bookings for cynical fouls to stop promising moves. The first half ended with the Dark Blues on top, but unable to force the second goal their play would have deserved.
The Dee started the second half on the front foot and O’Hara’s shot from distance fizzed a foot over the crossbar after a good run by Deacon. The defence coped well with the disruption of Darren O’Dea limping off and Genseric Kusunga coming on. The substitute settled in well and Dundee’s back three were mostly in control of the Hearts attacks.
The Dark Blues came desperately close to taking the lead from a corner. Steven Caulker headed the ball on for Murray, whose close range header was scrambled off the line by Naismith, who then managed to turn Moussa’s follow up round the post.
Dundee went through a spell of excellent attacking football, with the moves being consistently spoilt by poor decisions and execution when a good final ball was required. Naismith earned another booking for a dreadful, deliberate foul on McGowan who was about to play Murray or Moussa in on goal.
Frustratingly this passage of play ended with Dundee temporarily ditching their fluent passing, rather than cutting out the poor final balls. Roarie Deacon brought out a good save from McLoughlin after he jinked into space at the edge of the penalty area following a good run by Murray. After an outstanding first half Deacon found it harder to get into the match in the second half as Hearts tried, with some success, to ensure he would get no easy possession.
Hearts meanwhile were still struggling to put together the passing game they clearly wanted to play, but now and again they would get it right and pose problems for the Dundee defence. Substitute Euan Henderson went closest with a glancing header that sailed over the crossbar.
Ten minutes from time Neil McCann send on Kevin Holt to replace Jon Aurtenetxe and this proved a surprisingly positive attacking move. Holt immediately started running aggressively at Hearts and this almost brought a quick goal. Holt’s marvellous run took him down the left, through a couple of tackles and into the penalty area. He pulled the ball back for McGowan, whose curling cross-shot just missed the angle of crossbar and post.
A-Jay Leitch-Smith replaced Moussa for the last few minutes, but the only near thing came when Simon Murray showed an astonishing burst of pace at the end of a hard-working game, burning his way down the right, round the Hearts defence and into the penalty area. Instead of picking out the well placed McGowan he went for goal and his shot was deflected harmlessly wide.
The final whistle brought mixed feelings for the Dees in the stands. This was a game that Dundee should probably have won, and the extra two points would have been hugely welcome. It was frustrating to get just one point, but the quality of play, the endeavour on show, and the confidence of the players to take the ball and play some good football were all encouraging. The single point might still be valuable, but the qualities on show from the team might ultimately be more significant. There were some very good individual performances, but the highlight of the day was a good solid performance all through the side. The big downside? That early avoidable goal was painful to watch and might have cost the Dee three points.
Dundee FC 3-4-1-2
Caulker, Meekings, O’Dea (c) (Kusunga 54)
Deacon, O’Hara, Kamara, Aurtenetxe (Holt 80)
Moussa (Leitch-Smith 84), Murray
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Kerr, Spence, Wighton
Goal: Moussa (27).
Booked: Deacon (simulation), McGowan (foul on AManksaa), O’Hara (foul on Berra), Murray (foul on Godinho).
Godinho, Souttar, Berra, Hughes
Cowie, Callachan (Henderson 71), Adao (Cochrane 78), Amankwaa (Moore 71)
Unused subs: Hamilton (gk), Milinkovic, Randall, McDonald.
Goal: Callachan (2).
Booked: Lafferty (simulation), Callachan (foul on McGowan), Berra (foul on O’Hara), Naismith (foul on McGowan).
Referee: Kevin Clancy. Assistants: Frank Connor, David Roome. 4th official: Gavin Duncan.
Report: James Christie.