Dundee kicked off their 2023/24 Premiership season with a tie against Stuart Kettlewell’s Motherwell side at the Kilmac Stadium. Over 6,000 were in attendance to see John Nelms unfurl the 2022/23 Championship winning flag, with the added theatrics of flames shooting out on the pitch side.
Dundee’s start to the game couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start with Antonio Portales staying down after attempting to go for the ball. He would only last on the pitch for a further few minutes when he was substituted off for Josh Mulligan with Jordan McGhee dropping into the Mexican’s spot and Mulligan taking up his position in Midfield.
There wasn’t much to talk about in the first 15 minutes as the rain started to lash down with conditions worsening as time went on.
Amandou Bakayoko did nearly find an opening after Zach Robinson flicked on the ball to his strike partner but just as the big striker was about to pull the trigger, two Motherwell players dived in with Dan Casey getting the vital tackle in and the ball away.
Dundee did start picking up the tempo and a neat pass by Malachi Boateng was threaded through to Bakayoko but the forward misjudged his pass and the pass was cleared by Motherwell.
On the 18th minute mark, a cross by Owen Beck was swung in but goalkeeper Liam Kelly got to the ball first with Bakayoko rushing in.
Both sides were finding space but also finding the conditions hard to play in as the rain worsened. This didn’t stop Luke McCowan however who made a fine run and passed the ball to Cameron who was situated in the middle of the box. His attempted pass to the onrushing Robinson was cutout however and the Steelmen dealt with another Dundee attack.
The Dee continued to push forward in the hope of grabbing the opener but a ball into the back post to Cameron was a bit too much for the attacking midfielder and Motherwell cleared at the back post.
Dundee pushed forward, Cameron unable to claim the ball but Motherwell clear at the back post, cleared away.
Motherwell were also creating chances and a slack pass from Mulligan fell to Blair Spittal who ran with the ball and his low driven shot to the bottom left of Jon McCracken’s goal was well saved by the keeper as he palmed it past the post.
Dundee had a flurry of balls into the Motherwell box with a few corners but just like the ones beforehand in this game, they came to nothing.
Motherwell started to come forward and saw Spittal putting the ball into the Dundee box and then Connor Wilkinson linked up with Blair Spittal, with the ball being played back to the striker before his attempted shot was deflected wide for a corner which was dealt with before a foul was given on a foul to McCowan.
With minutes to go until halftime, Josh Mulligan made a darting run from the Dundee half with the ball, going past a clutch of players along the way. However, his goal attempt didn’t match the build up play and sailed over the bar.
Disaster struck bang on half-time for The Dee.
With the ball played in the Motherwell half, the ball evaded Ashcroft as he attempted to clear the ball. Stephen O’Doneel found plenty of space down his rightside and his low driven ball across the Dundee goal was knocked into the back of the net for Theo Blair to score on his debut.
It was a sucker punch in a first half that didn’t produce many clear-cut chances in some terrible conditions.
At the start of the second half, the rain had stopped but the pitch remained heavy with the ball slowing down as Dundee tried to make a few passes across our goal.
The game however did remain open for both sets of players as Motherwell looked for that killer second while Dundee looked for the equaliser.
A couple of Beck corners caused a bit of nuisance in the Motherwell defence, but all eventually cleared, while a trademark Joe Shaughnessy long throw fell to Ashcroft whose initial header went into the air, with the defender unaware of its location. The ball fell to Beck with, yet another Dundee shot deflected behind for a corner which fell to nothing.
It was very open for both teams at this point with each finding space and moments where they were passing and making the other side run for the ball.
Despite trying to break down the Motherwell defence and failing so far to do so, Dundee eventually started to find gaps. Luke McCowan started a darting run with a nice one-two and found himself in space to the keeper’s right side as he ran down on goal but his shot went past the keeper but unfortunately struck the post and Robinsons’ follow up shot found itself in the keeper’s hands.
Eventually, The Dee would find the breakthrough on the 68th minute.
Luke McCowan put in a fine cross to the back post and it was pinpoint as Lyall Cameron ran in to nod the equaliser much to the delight of the players, management and large home support, who celebrated Dundee’s first goal back in the top-flight.
Just as quickly as Dundee had drawn level, they possibly could have found themselves ahead just a few moments later. Robinson collected the ball and ran at the defence and as Cameron made space on the striker’s left side, Robinson passed the ball to Cameron but Motherwell were quick to get in to deal with an opportunity which could have very well taken the lead.
Motherwell wouldn’t let this setback to their gameplan unsettle them and came close when a corner was headed over with McCracken running out and mistiming the ball.
The game was end to end at this point and Lyall Cameron nearly doubled his lead when his shot hit off the post, rolled across the goal and hit off the opposite one before being cleared. A massive let-off for Motherwell but a moment that Dundee will feel that could have been the moment they claimed all three points.
The remaining 15 minutes proved to be a scrappy but entraining affair with both sides battling for the ball and throwing their bodies about to stop each other from grabbing that crucial winner. The best chance fell to Lennon Miller whose shot looked goalbound on the 85th minute.
As the clock ticked down into injury time, Motherwell forced a few corners, but none threatened Dundee and the whistle went to end the game 1-1.
The only bookings of the game were to Motherwell with Dan Casey and Papa Square with both on fouls to the energetic Luke McCowan.
McCracken, Ashcroft, Shaughnessy, Portales (Mulligan 5), McCowan, McGhee, Boateng, Beck, Cameron, Bakayoko, Robinson
Unused substitutes: Legzdins, Kerr, Rudden, Anderson, Tiffoney, Byrne, Pineda, Robertson
Kelly, McGinn, Mugabi, Casey, Donnell, Slattery, Miller, Spittal, Souaré (McGinley 74)
Wilkinson, Bair (Efford 88)
Unused Substitutes: Lamie, Maguire, Oxborough, Zdravkovski, Blaney, Wilson, Ferrie
Officials: Referee: David Dickinson, AR1: David McGeachie, AR2: Graham McNeillie, Fourth Official: Craig Napier, VAR: David Munro, AVAR: Graeme Leslie
Report: Danny Smith