Danny Mullen’s beautifully taken goal late in the first half gave the Dark Blues a well deserved win at the Kilmac Stadium against St Johnstone. The Dee were the better team all over the pitch, all through the match, and should have won by more than a single goal.
Dundee made only one enforced change. Lee Ashcroft was injured so Liam Fontaine, his replacement on Saturday, retained his place in central defence.
The opening half hour was largely cagey with few chances. The Dark Blues had an edge in terms of the danger created but both defences handled the early attacking competently.
Luke McCowan provided the only shot on target in the first 20 minutes. After a fine Charlie Adam free kick broke to him McCowan’s low shot was blocked on the line by Zander Clark.
Both the Dee and Saints looked capable of hurting the opposition with fast breaks, but neither side could put a decisive move together. Either the final ball went astray or a defender intervened as things were getting interesting.
As the half wore on the games swung decisively in Dundee’s favour. The Dee midfield grew increasingly influential with Charlie Adam, Max Anderson and Paul McGowan winning plenty of possession and using it well. At the end of a prolonged spell of pressure McCowan found space 22 yards from goal and smashed a rising shot off the outside of the post.
Dundee continued to threaten and opened the scoring after 39 minutes. Saints’ Rooney got his head to a crossfield but only managed to play it into space. Marshall moved the ball on to McGowan who played a quick pass into the penalty area. Danny MULLLEN had his back to goal 15 yards out and turned instantly to send a low shot inside Clark’s right hand post to claim a classy striker’s goal.
There was little response from Saints in the remainder of the first half. Dundee came close to a second with Adam’s raking 25 yard shot that flashed narrowly wide.
St Johnstone brought on Liam Craig for Murray Davidson at half time to try and establish a more effective presence in a midfield where Dundee were providing most of the energy and creativity.
The Dark Blues continued to dominate and Mullen had two good efforts in rapid succession. His header from a Jordan Marshall cross brought a good save from Clark. Two minutes later he turned and shot too high after Saints’ defence got into a mess, not for the first or last time.
Dundee were much the more dangerous side throughout the second half. St Johnstone had their fair share of possession and attacks but try as they might they offered little threat to Adam Legzdins’ goal. Eetu Vertainen managed to send a glancing header on target from Shaun Rooney’s cross, but Legzdins beat it away without too much trouble. Apart from that the Dundee defence always managed to get on the end of the crosses and passes that reached the penalty area.
In contrast Dundee had the St Johnstone defence in trouble every time they attacked. McCowan was constantly involved on the left where he linked impressively with Marshall. On the other wing Paul McMullan and Cammy Kerr were tireless in both attack and defence. Meanwhile, in the middle Charlie Adam was dictating play and spraying superb passes around the park, with Max Anderson relentless in his harrying of Saints players, and creative on the ball.
Leigh Griffiths came on for the last quarter of an hour, replacing McGowan. Mullen dropped into a deeper role. Griffiths gave Saints fresh problems and the Dark Blues carried far more threat than the visitors in the later stages.
Anderson sent a fierce shot across goal. Mullen’s snap shot was too close to Clark. McMullan should really have scored when Mullen set him up, but his rising shot missed the angle of post and bar by inches. Only a last gasp tackle by McCart stopped Mullen as he was about to shoot. Griffiths did poke the ball into the net from a corner but the goal was disallowed for holding by Ryan Sweeney.
St Johnstone had run out of ideas by the end and the Dark Blues held on comfortably to their lead. Saints are always well organised, hard working and very difficult opponents, but tonight they were second best in every department to an impressive Dundee team.
Jordan Marshall was announced as man of the match, but as on Saturday, there was no shortage of strong candidates. This was another excellent win for the Dee who were full of confidence and played some very good football. A second successive clean sheet was important and particularly pleasing in the absence of Lee Ashcroft. His stand-in, Liam Fontaine, was always solid, unflappable and highly effective.
From start to finish the work rate from Dundee was relentless and, combined with the Dark Blues’ creativity, this ensured that St Johnstone were always second best and fortunate to head home along the A90 with only a one goal defeat.
Dundee FC 4-2-3-1
Kerr, Fontaine, Sweeney, Marshall
Anderson, Adam (c)
McMullan, McGowan (Griffiths 76), McCowan
Unused subs: Lawlor (gk), Elliott, Panter, Cummings, Lamb.
Goal: Mullen (39).
St Johnstone 3-5-2
Rooney, Gordon (c), McCart
O’Halloran, MacPherson, Davidson (Craig at half time), Crawford, Booth
Kane, Vertainen (Solomon-Otabor 67)
Unused subs: Parish (gk), Brown, Ambrose Devine, Dendoncker.
Booked: Solomon-Otabor (foul on Kerr).
Attendance: 5,196 (683 away supporters).
Referee: Andrew Dallas. Assistants: Gordon Crawford, Kevin McElhinney. Fourth Official: Chris Fordyce.
Report: James Christie.