Dundee U20’s took on Cove Rangers in the newly revamped Challenge Cup, now the Irn Bru Cup. The test for the Dark Blues was of course seeing how they would fare against “seasoned pros” in comparison with the other youngsters that they will take on in the upcoming Development League season. Highland League Champions Cove were looking to bounce back from the 7-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of Ross County in the League Cup. The competitions age restrictions meant manager Jimmy Boyle was unable to select regulars Matty Allan, Andy Black, Jesse Curran and Sam Dryden. Despite the Dee’s taking a first half lead courtesy of Greg Warwick, Cove struck twice in the closing 12 minutes, and advanced into the second round of the Irn Bru Cup.
Cove created the first chance of the game after just 4 minutes. Johnathan Smith attempting to lob Kyle Gourlay in the Dundee goal from around 30 yards, but the Dundee keeper made a comfortable save. After a cagey start to the half, Dundee went close to opening the scoring through Connor Coupe. The winger did well to create space for himself inside the Cove penalty area, but his curling left foot shot was just off target.
Cove were next to threaten, this time Kevin Buchan, himself a former Dundee youth player, attempted to lob the ball over Gourlay, but his effort also ended up in the goalies’ gloves. Dundee striker Mark Smith managed to get in behind the Cove backline twice in quick succession, but he failed to punish them on both occasions. As the half went on, both sides felt they could grab the opening goal. Johnathan Smith managed to get in behind the Dundee defence but his low cross from the right hand side of the penalty area just evaded Buchan in the middle.
The warning signs were there for Dundee but it would be the Dark Blues that would open the scoring after 28 minutes. Sean Gallacher’s cross was only cleared to the edge of the area, where Greg WARWICK was able to get off a low shot that found the bottom corner of the net. Following, the goal Cove winger Daniel Park was replaced by Connor Scully.
Moments after going behind, Cove were almost level. Substitute Scully making an instant impact as he found Buchan, who rounded Gourlay, but the Cove strikers’ effort was cleared off the line by Conor Quigley. This is the closest the Highlanders would come to finding an equaliser, with the half drawing to a close, they upped the pressure, but failed to cause Gourlay any serious problems.
The Dundee stopper was called into action almost immediately at the beginning of the second half. Scully’s in-swinging free kick was met by Buchan, but the striker could only send the ball straight at Gourlay. Moments later Dundee went close with a free kick. Taylor Berry fizzed in a low ball from the angle of the 18-yard box that evaded everybody in the box. Any kind of touch and the Dee’s would have doubled their advantage.
The frustration amongst the Cove players was clear for all too see. A number of the Highlanders picked up bookings for poor challenges on the Dundee players. With an hour gone, Cove made their second change. Former Dundee man Roy McBain was replaced by Blair Yule.
Buchan was beginning to cause the Dundee defence issues. This time the striker followed a good run with a low shot that went just wide of Gourlay’s far post. With Cove continuing to look for an equaliser, Dundee made their first change of the game. The impressive Mark Smith replaced upfront by Matthew Henvey.
With 78 minutes played, Coves pressure would finally tell. After a long ball picked out Johnathan Smith in the area, the striker managed to find BUCHAN, who scrambled the ball over the line after seeing his first effort saved by Gourlay. It was a tough one for Dundee to take, but an equaliser that Coves improving performance merited.
With the game entering its closing stages, the Dundee players were beginning to tire and Coves experience was beginning to show. A change of formation from the Highlanders was causing Dundee issues and after 84 minutes the hosts took the lead. Substitute Connor SCULLY heading the ball past Gourlay from close range.
After falling behind, the Dees took the game to Cove in the final few moments. Kerr Waddell got on the end of Josh Skelly’s corner, but the central defender couldn’t get his header on target. Brian Rice replaced Connor Coupe with a few minutes to go. With the clock against them, Dundee managed to create one more chance. The Dees won a free kick 25 yards from goal following a corner. Skelly opted to tee the ball up for Waddell, but his effort, also the last kick of the game, was wide of the mark.
Despite the result, there will still be plenty of positives for U20’s manager Jimmy Boyle and first team boss Paul Hartley to take from the match ahead of the new season. Kerr Waddell and Matthew Smyth were both solid in the centre of defence, while Sean Gallacher was impressive at right back and Josh Skelly was lively up front. With regulars such as Jesse Curran and Matty Allan likely to be available for selection for the opening game of the season against Aberdeen, the signs are certainly pointing in the right direction for this group of players.
Dundee (4-2-3-1): Gourlay (GK), Gallacher, Quigley, Smyth, Waddell, Warwick, Coupe (Rice 88), Berry, M.Smith (Henvey 68), Skelly, Clark
Subs Unused: Ferrie, Gibb, Anderson
Goal: Warwick 28’
Cove (4-4-2): McCaffeerty (GK), Burnett, Milne, Duff, Watson, Kelly, Park (Scully 29), McCulloch, Buchan, J.Smith, McBain (Yule 63)
Subs Unused: S.Smith, Redford, Walker, McKenzie
Goals: Buchan 78’, Scully 84’
Referee: Mike Roncone
Report: Andrew Creegan