The first competitive match of the season ended in highly satisfactory style for new manager James McPake with a 3-0 Betfred Cup win over Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy. Andrew Nelson scored twice in the first half hour and Craig Curran came off the bench in the second half to confirm the Dee’s comfortable win with his first goal for the club.
Only two players started today who were in the starting elevens when the Dee came here two years ago in the Betfred Cup, Cammy Kerr for the Dark Blues and ex-Dee Iain Davidson for Rovers.
The Dee started on top and went on to dominate the rest of the match, apart from a tricky 10 minutes in the middle of the second half.
Dundee had plenty of patient possession in Rovers’ half before Jamie Ness had the first shot after 10 minutes. Ross Munro turned his low 20 yarder away for a corner. A minute later Declan McDaid was fouled a yard outside the box but Munro comfortably took Jordan McGhee’s shot over the defensive wall.
Andrew Nelson was constantly menacing Rovers’ defence with his pace and aggression. That was the formula which brought the opening goal on 14 minutes. NELSON chased Josh Todd’s header over the top of the defence, overtook centre back Fernandy Mendy, muscling him off the ball, and poked his shot under Munro and into the net.
Referee Lloyd Wilson ordered Rovers’ manager John McGlynn into the stands for angrily claiming Mendy was fouled. McGlynn may have had a point but defenders can’t afford to take the chance that the referee will bail them out if they are hesitant when they are being hounded by a striker.
Nelson almost repeated the trick when he burst past Hendry to run clear, only for the Rovers midfielder to haul him down. A booking was fair punishment as Nelson was well wide of goal.
Dundee kept Raith pinned back in their own half with a mixture of good possession and passing combined with energetic pressing when the home side did have the ball.
It was no surprise when Dundee extended their lead just before the half hour. Declan McDaid knocked a high ball past Mendy, who clumsily bundled him over. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and Andrew NELSON smashed home his second goal.
The Dee almost scored a killer third goal when McDaid pressed Mendy into losing the ball in his own half. Todd’s quick pass set up two Dees to attack against a single defender, Iain Davidson. Nelson drew the former Dee before passing to Paul McGowan, who curled his shot round Munro and off the post.
That narrow escape stirred Rovers into action. In the last 10 minutes of the first half they put together some good attacks but the only serious attempt on goal was a fierce shot by Lewis Allan from an impossible angle that Hamilton pushed over for a corner. Raith’s greater ambition left more space for Dundee and a third goal for the Dee always looked more likely than a home goal.
Dundee started the second half firmly on top, and Mendy recklessly gave the ball straight to McGowan in his own penalty area, but the Dee number 10 was crowded out before he could shoot. When Rovers did get into Dundee’s half the Dee broke quickly for McDaid to cut in from the left and flash a shot over the bar.
Rovers struggled to get into the game as Dundee passed the ball around patiently, with Shaun Byrne and Jamie Ness commanding the centre of the park and Paul McGowan orchestrating the attacks in front of them.
To their credit Raith didn’t give up in a game that seemed well beyond them and through simple hard work forced themselves into contention to produce a good 10 minute spell.
Josh Meekings blocked an Allan shot for a corner. Joao Victoria sent a cross shot well wide, and Rovers had an unsuccessful, and not particularly convincing, penalty claim for a challenge by Meekings on Ross Matthews.
Even in the midst of Rovers best spell of the match Dundee should have scored the third goal that would have put them out of sight. McGowan’s pass found Nelson who spun past his marker and hammered a fierce shot over the bar from 16 yards.
Dundee strengthened the midfield even further by withdrawing Josh Todd and sending Fin Robertson on to play in a deeper, more central role. The Dee then snuffed out Rovers attempted fightback and were never in trouble again.
Craig Curran came on for McDaid as Dundee settled into a 4-4-2 formation. Pleasingly, with his first touch of the ball, the newcomer scored his first goal for the Dee. It was a beautifully crafted goal featuring two excellent passes.
McGowan’s incisive pass sent Byrne into the penalty area. With a shot looking the obvious option Byrne surprised the defence by cleverly switching the ball back across goal for the inrushing CURRAN to fire home to his obvious delight, and that of the large travelling support behind that goal.
16 year old Lyall Cameron came on for his competitive debut. He replaced Nelson, who left the park to a well deserved standing ovation. Rovers’ centre back Mendy must have breathed a sigh of relief to see his tormentor depart.
Dundee then saw out the match easily, pushing for a fourth goal without taking any needless risks that might have cost them a clean sheet. A curling free kick by Ness was headed out from under his bar by Mendy, and that was that. It’s worth noting that Dundee finished the match with two 16 year olds on the park and in complete control.
Only the fussiest and most negative of Dees would have been moaning after this fine start to the season. The two main strikers got off the mark. The defence kept a clean sheet. The midfield was impressively dominant and creative. Dundee didn’t even pick up a booking.
All things considered this was a grand day out. There was even a spot of singing on the Perth Dees’ bus as it rocked home up the M90.
Raith Rovers 4-4-1-1
McKay, Mendy, Davidson, MacDonald
Bowie (Miller 71), Hendry (Tait 83), Spencer, Victoria (Anderson 71)
Unused subs: Benedictus, Watson, Smith.
Booked: Hendry (foul on Nelson), Mendy (foul on Byrne), Davidson (foul on Marshall), Spencer (foul on Marshall), Matthews (foul on Ness).
Dundee FC 4-2-3-1
Kerr, Meekings (c), McGhee, Marshall
McDaid (Curran 72), McGowan, Todd (Robertson 67)
Nelson (Cameron 79)
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Forster, Mulligan, Cunningham.
Goals: Nelson (14, 28 pen), Curran (74).
Attendance: 2,584 (1,384 Dees).
Referee: Lloyd Wilson. Assistants: Craig Ferguson, Barry Reid.
Report: James Christie.