Dundee slipped to a 3-1 defeat in Perth against St Johnstone today. Chris Kane gave Saints a two goal lead at half time. The Dark Blues reorganised their formation at half time, but immediately lost a third goal to Stevie May. Dundee fought back and Ryan Sweeney provided a glimmer of hope with his first goal for the club but it was too late to trouble St Johnstone.
The Dark Blues made two changes to the starting eleven. Paul McGowan and Jason Cummings retained their places after coming on as substitutes last week, replacing Max Anderson, who was on the bench, and the injured Leigh Griffiths.
Neither goalkeeper was given anything to worry about in a sluggish start by both sides. The game sparked into life when Michael O’Halloran dribbled to the touchline and cut the ball back for Stevie May who shot wide from a good position.
That was a warning for the Dee and it was a route to goal that St Johnstone would exploit later. After that escape the match offered nothing till the half hour mark.
St Johnstone repeatedly wasted possible attacks by giving the ball away in midfield and Dundee posed no threat to the home goal. The Dark Blues could not find space in the final third and were never in a position to shoot or play dangerous balls into St Johnstone’s box.
A turgid game unexpectedly produced a high quality goal after 31 minutes. Shaun Rooney’s long pass down the right cut out Jordan Marshall allowing O’Halloran to run clear. The winger’s quick cross was swept home by Chris KANE from 10 yards. The goal had everything the game had previously lacked; imagination, speed and precision.
Dundee tried to get back on level terms but gave St Johnstone nothing to worry about. Seven minutes after the opening goal Saints scored again with their next serious attack.
O’Halloran sent May clear on the Dee left and the fierce low cross into the goalmouth was bundled over the line from point blank range by KANE.
Dundee’s formation of three at the back was not working. The wing backs, especially Marshall up against O’Halloran, were vulnerable to balls in behind them. In attack the wing backs were lacking support and the wide areas were a dead end for the Dee.
The Dark Blues responded with two changes at half time as they switched to four at the back. Luke McCowan and Cillian Sheridan came on for Liam Fontaine and Shaun Byrne.
Before the team had a chance to settle down to the new formation Dundee shipped a poorly defended goal. O’Halloran’s low cross from the right found MAY and he had time to turn and score with a shot across Legzdins from six yards.
Dundee improved with the new shape but the streetwise Saints were never going to let a three goal lead slip. The home side sat back and contained the Dee professionally.
The Dark Blues did not manage a shot until the 53rd minute when Cummings blazed over. Dundee were now doing most of the attacking and Cummings had another wayward effort.
The first Dee effort on target did not arrive till midway through the second half when Sheridan’s header was easily saved by Clark.
Dundee were gradually starting to look more dangerous, but had to survive a scare at their own end. Paul McGowan headed off the line from Rooney’s header from a corner.
Dundee finally pulled a goal back after 74 minutes when Ryan SWEENEY scored with a powerful back post header from McMullan’s corner.
As Dundee pushed forward with greater intent it might have seemed the momentum had swung their way, but the reality was that Saints were still setting the pace of the match. They were happy to play a calm containing game and try to hit Dundee on the break. That almost paid off when O’Halloran broke clear through the middle, but he pulled his shot wide.
Dundee’s best move of the match came when McMullan sent Sheridan into the penalty area with a clever reverse pass, but the cross flew through the goalmouth with Cummings unable to get a decisive touch.
Cammy Kerr came forward to test Clark with a header from Marshall’s cross but the Saints keeper pushed the ball round the post for a corner.
Dundee kept up the pressure for the rest of the game, but St Johnstone coped comfortably. The home side might have had a flattering fourth goal when they broke away, but substitute Glenn Middleton made a mess of the pass that might have set up Kane.
In recent weeks Dundee have played well, especially in defence, and created chances without scoring. Today, for the first hour, the Dark Blues were uniformly poor. They conceded bad goals and were not creating any chances to miss.
The last half hour was far better and Dundee carried much more threat with McMullan and McCowan skillfully attacking down the wings and also being prepared to move infield when required. However, the game was lost by then and St Johnstone had done all they needed to see the game out and deservedly take all three points.
St Johnstone 3-4-3
Rooney, Ambrose, Dendoncker
O’Halloran (Muller 75), Wotherspoon, Craig, Booth
Crawford (MacPherson 58), Kane, May (Middleton 75)
Unused subs: Parish (gk), Devine, Bryson, Vertainen.
Goals: Kane (31,38), May (46).
Booked: Kane (simulation), Craig (foul on McMullan), Wotherspoon (foul on McGowan).
Dundee FC 3-5-2
Kerr, Ashcroft, Sweeney, Fontaine (McCowan at half time), Marshall
McGhee (c) (Anderson 70), Byrne (Sheridan at half time), McGowan
Unused subs: Lawlor (gk), Elliott, Panter, Lamb.
Goal: Sweeney (74).
Booked: McGhee (foul on May).
Attendance: not announced.
Referee: Greg Aitken. Assistants: Daniel McFarlane, Scott Anderson. Fourth Official: Kevin Clancy.
Report: James Christie.