The Dark Blues paid tribute to club legend Doug Cowie in fitting style with a high quality 3-0 victory over Motherwell at the Kilmac Stadium. The Steelmen were blown away in a terrific first half that could well have given the Dee more than a two goal lead at the interval. Luke McCowan and Danny Mullen each scored in the middle of the first half. Ryan Sweeney added a third shortly after the restart. Dundee then held off Motherwell’s attempted fightback comfortably while always looking capable of adding to their lead.
James McPake made one change from the last game, against Celtic, three weeks ago. Luke McCowan returned in the place of Christie Elliott as Dundee reverted to a back four.
Although Well had the edge in possession Dundee offered much the greater danger with their early play. The Dee were trying to mount quick, inventive attacks whereas Motherwell were relying more on optimistic long balls.
Paul McMullan flashed an 18 yard shot wide and Danny Mullen forced a good save from Liam Kelly after Paul McGowan’s hustling had won the ball 25 yards from goal. Mullen was unfortunate to have a goal chalked off by a very tight offside decision.
The Dark Blues took a deserved lead at the end of a fast, sweeping move after 19 minutes. Charlie Adam changed the direction of play with a first time pass out to Luke McCowan on the left. McCowan darted diagonally for the penalty area dragging defenders with him. Jordan Marshall ran into the gaping space left behind and was in place to take McCowan’s pass and cross into the goalmouth. The ball broke to McCOWAN, who kept his head, took a touch and slotted his shot past Kelly from 10 yards.
The goal gave the Dark Blues a further boost in confidence, and they hurled themselves at Well, hunting a second goal. For a few minutes it was shooty-in at the Well end till the visitors’ defence finally cracked again.
Dundee worked a sweet move down the left from a free kick when a high ball into the box was the obvious option. Marshall combined with McMullan who crossed for Max Anderson to hit a low drive that flicked off a defender and just past the post. Liam Kelly saved superbly from Lee Ashcroft’s header when the corner came over.
The pressure was relentless and McMullan’s fierce angled shot was pushed round the post by Kelly. From another corner Well could clear only as far as Paul McGowan lurking outside the penalty area. He quickly headed the ball back. Instead of shooting Adam fooled the defence by passing to McCowan who quickly moved the ball on for MULLEN to fire inside the post from eight yards.
Motherwell were reeling and never managed to get their game going in the first half while Dundee’s free flowing attacking kept stretching their defence. Well perked up slightly in the later stages but toiled in open play. They relied on set pieces to get the ball into the penalty area without causing the Dee any problems.
Motherwell could only improve after half time, and they made two substitutions to try and get back into the match; Kevin Van Veen and Jordan Roberts replacing Connor Shields and Liam Grimshaw.
The match was settled in the first five minutes of the second half. Kaiyne Woolery made a fast break down the left and Van Veen smashed his shot off the angle of the post and bar.
The Dee took full advantage of that escape and killed the game with their third goal two minutes later. Dundee won a free kick 30 yards from goal. With the defence expecting a shot Adam instead swung a pass out to Ashrcoft beyond the far post. The defenders were spectating as Ashcroft knocked the ball back across goal for Ryan SWEENEY to bundle home from point blank range.
With Dundee looking out of sight the visitors stepped up their game and tried to launch a fightback. Well were slow and laboured in the first half, but started to play at a far higher tempo and looked more dangerous.
However, while Motherwell had more success in getting forward with passing moves they could not get past the Dee defence. The loss of Lee Ashcroft through injury was a worry, but Liam Fontaine was a very capable replacement. Leigh Griffiths came on for Paul McGowan, who had been extremely influential in that marvellous first half, with Mullen dropping into a slightly deeper position. Max Anderson also limped off and Christie Elliott replaced him in an unfamiliar midfield position where he coped well.
The game swung from end to end with Dundee being more cautious than they had been in the first half but attacking quickly whenever they saw an opportunity. For all their improvement Motherwell had great difficulty breaking the Dee down and finding any end product. Tony Watt showed neat skill to set himself up for a shot from 18 yards only for Legzdins to save well. Legzdins pushed away a low drive from 30 yards by Barry Maguire and in the resulting scramble the ball broke to Nathan McGinley wide on the left and he swiped his shot well over the bar.
When Well attacked Dundee always looked like they could add to their lead with a breakaway, but they came closest from another Adam free kick. His excellent delivery flew over the central defenders, and Mullen hurled himself at the ball heading narrowly wide.
In the last 10 minutes Dundee started to slow the tempo down and kept possession in Motherwell’s half leaving the visitors frustrated as they chased the ball a long way from the home goal.
The Dees in the stands had been giving the players wonderful backing throughout and were able to savour the players passing the ball around in injury time with the points safe. The three goals were obviously very pleasing, but the clean sheet was also much appreciated, especially after the loss of Ashcroft.
The man of the match was announced as Danny Mullen, which was well deserved. However, it would have been a difficult call because the whole team put in a fine performance. The Dark Blues were solid and composed in defence, hard working and creative in midfield, and a constant source of speedy menace in attack.
One incident, in injury time, summed up the Dee today. Paul McMullan sprinted back from deep in the visitors’ half to help stop Motherwell breaking down his wing. Dundee were very good on the ball, but when Well had possession the Dark Blues never stopped grafting. The Dark Blues’ skill, teamwork and workrate meant the emphatic victory was richly deserved. The players must now take confidence from this performance and result; this is the standard they must reach consistently.
Dundee FC 4-2-3-1
Kerr, Ashcroft (Fontaine 53), Sweeney, Marshall
Anderson (Elliott 68), Adam (c)
McMullan, McGowan (Griffiths 64), McCowan
Unused subs: Lawlor (gk), Panter, Cummings, Lamb.
Goals: McCowan (20), Mullen (26), Sweeney (49).
Booked: Mullen (foul on Lamie), Sweeney (foul on Watt), Fontaine (foul on Roberts).
Mugabi, Solholm Johansen, Lamie, McGinley
Slattery, Maguire, Grimshaw (Roberts at half time)
Woolery, Shields (Van Veen at half time), Watt
Unused subs: Fox (gk), O’Donnell, Carroll, Van Veen, O’Connor, Cornelius, Roberts.
Booked: Slattery (foul on McCowan), Mugabi (foul on McCowan), Roberts (foul on McCowan).
Attendance: 4,747 (365 Well fans).
Referee: Craig Napier. Assistants: Frank Connor, Graham McNeillie. Fourth Official: Gavin Duncan.
Report: James Christie.