Lee Ashcroft’s second half header powered the Dark Blues into the quarter finals at the expense of Motherwell in this afternoon’s Premier Sports Cup tie at the Kilmac Stadium. The game might have had only one goal but there was no shortage of thrills for the supporters who loved the chance to roar on the Dee to the victory they deserved.
The Dark Blues made three changes from last week’s defeat at Celtic. Liam Fontaine, Jason Cummings and Luke McCowan, making his first start, came in for Ryan Sweeney, Cillian Sheridan and Paul McGowan.
Dundee began promisingly and had the edge for most of the first half, dominating possession but perhaps not creating as many chances as they should have done.
Motherwell struggled to deal with the fine deliveries from the Dee’s many corners. After 10 minutes they failed to clear one and Christie Elliott drilled a low ball across goal that flicked off a defender for another corner.
Jason Cummings tested Liam Kelly with a low shot after Jordan McGhee headed a clearance from Adam Legzdins into his path. The Well keeper took the ball at the second attempt before Cummings could follow up.
Another Dee corner, hit with a low trajectory into the goalmouth by Paul McMullan, was defended poorly by Well. The Dark Blues couldn’t force the ball over the line in the resulting scramble.
McMullan moved over to the left at one point, dragging cover away from the Dee right. The winger quickly switched play back to the right, allowing Elliott to run in and shoot but Kelly saved.
Motherwell had less of the ball and were doing less attacking. Connor Shields had their first shot on target, a ferocious effort from 20 yards. Fortunately it was straight at Legzdins, who dealt with the shot comfortably.
Shields should have put Motherwell ahead late in the first half. Lee Ashcroft was tackled by Shields as he was about to pass. The ball broke to Lawless and Motherwell had two attackers against Liam Fontaine, the only covering defender. Lawless set up Shields and he smashed his shot against the crossbar from 12 yards.
Motherwell had their best spell of the half in the last few minute before half time but that did not signal a change in the balance of power.
The Dee got off to a storming start in the second half and came desperately close to opening the scoring after 48 minutes. Well centre back Juhani Ojala misjudged a high ball near the half way line. Dundee took advantage to carve Motherwell open. Cummings played a quick, accurate pass to release McMullan on the right and the winger knocked the ball back into the centre for McGhee to shoot from 10 yards. Somehow Kelly managed to get a touch and the ball bounced the wrong side of the post.
Motherwell had a few minutes of dangerous pressure and Legzdins blocked well from Shields’ close range shot after Dundee failed to clear a long throw.
After that the Dee settled back into aggressive attack forcing Well into deep and desperate defence. Kelly again saved impressively from Charlie Adam’s low, rasping 30 yard shot.
Only a minute later Dundee frustratingly had a goal disallowed. McMullan’s energetic pressing forced Grimshaw to lose possession as he tried to come out of defence. Luke McCowan took over and jinked inside. He might have shot, but chose to pass to Cummings who netted from six yards, only to be flagged for offside.
The momentum was very much with the Dark Blues as the pressure grew on Motherwell. A lovely through pass by Shaun Byrne sent McMullan to the byline and his chipped cross over the head of Kelly was frantically cleared for a corner as Dundee players threw themselves at the ball.
Another fine pass by Cummings sent Marshall racing down the left but McMullan miskicked in front of goal from the cross.
The corners kept coming for Dundee, with Motherwell struggling to deal with them. Finally, after 78 minutes the Well defence cracked.
McMullan’s corner from the left was straightforward. He dropped it into the danger area and let everyone fight it out. Lee ASHCROFT wanted it most, using his strength to outmuscle the Motherwell defenders as he climbed to power home his header from eight yards.
The goal was exactly what the Dark Blues deserved and they settled in to close the game out. Alex Jakubiak had replaced Luke McCowan shortly befor the goal. McCowan had a very impressive game in his full debut, but Jakubiak quickly settled into the game, showing strength and skill to hold the ball and set up attacks.
Shaun Byrne limped off injured and Paul McGowan came on for the last 10 minutes, adding his guile and graft to the Dark Blues’ cause.
Seven minutes from the end of normal time Motherwell had their best chance of the second half, and their only chance after the goal. Substitute Tony Watt got onto the end of Kaiyne Woolery’s cross, but sent his header straight into Legzdin’s arms. It was a costly miss because Dundee did not give Well a hint of a chance after that.
The last 10 minutes of play were spent largely in the Dundee half as Motherwell threw themselves at the Dark Blues trying to grab an equaliser.
But it was the Dee who came closest to a late goal when Jakubiak spun beautifully to leave Carroll for dead and race down the right. Paul McMullan and substitute Declan McDaid were racing into the penalty area, but the cutback was slightly too close to Kelly who managed to keep Well in the match.
Deep into the final minute of injury time Adam Legzdins took a high cross confidently under pressure and the supporters in the Bobby Cox Stand behind him rose to applaud as if it were a goal – recognising that it was the catch that put the Dee into the quarter finals.
After last week’s defeat at Parkead this was exactly the way for the players to respond. The spirit and determination to win proved too much for Motherwell. The Dark Blues played good football with clever passing and good movement, but it was the committment of the players that was decisive and delighted the fans.
There was only the one goal, but the Dee would not have been flattered if the margin had been greater. The remarkable tally of 17 corners shows how much pressure the Dark Blues applied on Motherwell. However, one of the most pleasing aspects of the win was the clean sheet that the defence worked so hard to earn.
After these difficult 18 months it was wonderful to enjoy a full-blooded cup tie with passionate supporters for both clubs singing, bawling and chanting. Dundee winning made it a perfect afternoon.
Dundee FC 4-3-3
Elliott, Ashcroft, Fontaine, Marshall
McGhee, Byrne (McGowan 82), Adam (c)
McMullan, Cummings (McDaid 88), McCowan (Jakubiak 75)
Unused subs: Lawlor (gk), Sharp (gk), Sweeney, Robertson, Panter.
Goal: Ashcroft (78).
Booked: Elliott (foul on Shields), Byrne (foul on Woolery), Adam (foul on Slattery).
Grimshaw, Ojala, Lamie, Carroll
Slattery, Donnelly (O’Hara 64), Maguire (Amaluzor 73)
Woolery, Shields (Watt 66)
Unused subs: Fox (gk), Johnston, Mugabi, O’Connor, Crawford, McGinley.
Booked: Donnelly (foul on McCowan), Slattery (dissent).
Referee: Kevin Clancy. Assistants: Graeme Stewart, Stuart Hodge. Fourth official: Grant Irvine.
Report: James Christie.