Friday 23 December 2016, 19.45, Dens Park
Despite the threat of Storm Barbara, we made it up to Dundee to see the Scottish Premiership clash between Dundee and Hearts.
By the time we arrived in the late afternoon of the game, the wind had died down considerably and the rain was a bit more intermittent than it had been earlier in the day. Still not ideal conditions for playing (or watching) football in though.
It’s a first look at Dundee this season.
Founded in 1893, Dundee FC were formed from the amalgamation of two local clubs – Our Boys and East End and they joined the Scottish Football League in their first season.
After a couple of early homes proving unsuitable, they moved to their current home in 1899. The early 1900s were to prove successful, with three runners-up spots in the league before their only Scottish Cup win came in 1910.
Although they were runner-up in the Scottish Cup in 1925, it was after the second world war when the team really blossomed.
Season 1948-49 saw them reach the semi-finals of both the League and Scottish Cups and finish second in the League after a last day defeat.
Nineteen fifty-one saw their second major trophy winning the League Cup, then won it again the following year. The first team to retain the trophy. A loss in the Scottish Cup Final came between the two wins. The rest of the decade saw a deterioration before the club’s most successful era in the 1960s when, under the management of Bob Shankly, Dundee won the League title in 1962 for the only time in their history before reaching the semi-finals of the 1962–63 European Cup.
Another Scottish Cup Final defeat in 1964 was followed by a league cup final defeat in 1967. Dundee also reached their second European semi-final in 1967 in the Inter City Fairs Cup – the predecessor to the UEFA Cup.
The League Cup was won again in 1973 in what has been Dundee’s last major honour. Finals of the competition were reached in 1981 and 1996 and the Scottish Cup again in 2002, but they were losing finalists in each.
They’ve spent much of the period since the 80s between the top two leagues but have now been in the top league since 2014-15.
The beginning of the new millennium saw Dundee sign a raft of foreign players, most notably the Argentinian superstar Claudio Caniggia. Almost inevitably, finances went into meltdown and the club entered administration in late 2003.
The supporters’ association played a big part in helping save the Club, but relegation came in 2005. Worse was to follow as the team failed to get promotion and went into administration again 2010. A 25 point penalty left them in danger of dropping down a further division which would likely have spelled the end. A great run despite their hugely depleted squad saw them stay up with points to spare.
Despite a bad start, 2012-13 saw them finish runners-up and the demise of Rangers saw them take their place in the top league. It was short lived though, as the signings Dundee had made were to have a tilt at promotion and suddenly they unexpectedly found themselves in the top league. Relegation came at the end of the season.
Dundee returned to the Premiership again at the end of 2014-15 and have finished in sixth and eighth in the last two seasons. They haven’t started the season well though and sit just above the relegation zone after 18 games.
Hearts have a new manager in place since I last saw them, with Robbie Neilson having headed off to manage MK Dons. Ian Cathro left his post as assistant manager at Newcastle to take his first role in charge, but hasn’t found the job easy to start with. A defeat and a draw saw him still looking for his first win coming to Dundee.
Nicky Low and James McPake missed out through injury for Dundee, but Paul McGowan was back in the squad following suspension. For Hearts, Prince Buaben and Sam Nicholson were injured. Krystian Nowak made his first start for Hearts while Dario Zanatta took a place on the bench after returning from loan.
There were 6,160 in attendance, including 1,400 away fans.
It didn’t take long for the first action. Djoum picked up the ball in midfield for Hearts in the second minute and fed Johnsen on the right. He stepped away from a defender and found Walker in the box. Walker touched the ball past Gomis and was brought down by the defender for a penalty. Walker stepped up himself and sent Bain the wrong way to give Hearts an early lead.
Nowak almost doubled the lead in the 6th minute after his volley from the edge of the box was inches wide.
Johnsen was next to shoot at the Dundee goal, his shot in the eighth minutes going wide of the post.
In 11 minutes, Souttar brought the ball forward for Hearts and chipped the ball through for Walker whose low shot was turned around the post by Bain.
The next couple of minutes saw Hearts win a couple of corners, but they couldn’t create an opportunity from them.
Hearts had been completely dominant and were moving the ball quickly and accurately and the home side were chasing shadows.
A Johnsen cross in 15 minutes found Smith inside the Dundee six-yard box, but he headed wide.
It took 23 minutes for Dundee to have their first real effort on goal. Wighton’s shot from outside the box, after holding off Smith, missing to the left of the goal.
Vincent had the next effort for the hosts in 26 minutes, running onto a cutback from Wighton, but blazing over the bar.
Dundee had finally got a foothold in the game, although Vincent’s shot had been the only real decent chance.
Hearts stepped up the pace again as the half neared its end. First, Cowie’s corner in 34 minutes was met well by Paterson in the air, but Bain saved well down low.
Then Walker found some space on the corner of the box in 35 minutes, but his shot went narrowly wide. Seconds later, Walker was through with only Bain to beat, but as he tried to take it round him, he sliced the ball up in the air into the grateful arms of the keeper.
Johnsen was played through in 37 minutes and held off two defenders, but could only shoot straight at Bain as he got into the box.
Hearts continued to end the half strongly as a great strike by Souttar from around 20 yards in 42 minutes was pushed away by Bain. From the corner, Paterson got a glimpse of goal in the box, but his shot was blocked.
The half time whistle couldn’t come quickly enough for Dundee and Hearts would have been rueing only being one in front after a half they had dominated.
After Hearts inability to take any chances in the first half after their early goal, they began the second half as they had the first. Hateley fouled Paterson wide on the right in 48 minutes and Cowie’s cross found Paterson’s head in the middle and he nodded into the bottom corner to make it 2-0. It looked as though the Hearts full back had misheaded the ball, but he wouldn’t have cared about that.
Haber won Dundee a free kick on the right in 53 minutes and McGowan, who had just come on, chipped the ball into the box where Haber chested the ball down to Wighton. His shot was well blocked by Paterson but it fell to O’Dea who took a clever touch to create some space for himself then he fired the ball into the bottom corner to get Dundee back in it.
The goal had been unexpected, but it was game on again after it had looked as though Hearts were going to cruise it.
Hearts had a great chance to restore the two-goal advantage in 57 minutes after a great move. Johnsen beat the offside trap and cut the ball back into the box. Paterson dummied the ball creating space for Walker, but he blasted over the bar when a goal looked certain.
A minute later, Cowie was sent through in the Dundee box and as Bain came out and Gadzhalov ran back, the defender seemed to catch Cowie as all three came together. The Hearts fans screamed for a penalty but to their disbelief the referee waved away appeals. The mood worsened when Cowie stayed down, having landed on his neck. There was a delay of around 7 minutes in which the midfielder remained motionless before he was carefully stretchered off.
In 71 minutes, things got even worse for the Jam Tarts. Smith hesitated and let a high ball bounce twice and Wighton won the ball from him. Vincent took possession and ran into the Hearts box, took the ball past a defender and played it to McGowan, who dinked the ball over the outrushing Hamilton for the equaliser.
Hearts were stunned, but looked to get back in front with Johnsen sending a headed chance wide in 74 minutes before a Muirhead shot from distance was comfortably saved by Bain in 76 minutes.
Paterson tried his luck from distance in 77 minutes but he pulled it wide.
Hearts though, were looking increasingly fragile at the back and Hateley took the ball off Smith on half way in 79 minutes before running into the box unchallenged and seeing his shot blocked behind.
Wighton had a chance in 85 minutes but his shot from the left side of the box was narrowly wide.
Holt entered the book for a late tackle on Walker in 89 minutes as both sides looked for a winner.
In 90 minutes, Etxabeguren played a long ball forward to Kerr as Dundee smelled blood and he sent over a great cross for Wighton inside the six-yard box. It was a great chance, but he headed straight into the arms of Hamilton.
The board went up to signal there would be 9 minutes of injury time. The most I’ve seen since the introduction of the boards.
A Djoum cross in 92 minutes was gathered at the second attempt by Bain as the game continued to hold the attention.
Three minutes into injury time Kerr went past Smith, who fouled him just outside the penalty area and was booked for his troubles. It wasn’t the Hearts full back’s night. Hateley’s free kick found the head of Haber whose powerful header looked to take a nick off Paterson and flew into Hearts net.
There were 11 minutes of injury time, but Hearts couldn’t find a way back into the game.
A remarkable game and one in which Hearts should have been out of sight at half time. They played some great football in the first half but completely capitulated when things started to go against them. Cowie had been the best player on the pitch until his injury and his departure seemed to completely disrupt Hearts play. They didn’t have a like for like substitute on the bench and never regained the composure they had shown.
Dundee deserve a lot of credit for not letting their heads go down and their battling qualities punished Hearts defensive frailties.
O’Dea and Kerr were best for Dundee while the aforementioned Cowie and Walker (who should have scored more than his one goal) were best for Hearts. Nowak had a good first half but faded.
Full Time: Dundee 3 Heart of Midlothian 2
Dundee: 1 Scott Bain, 55 Kevin Gomis (Etxabeguren 45), 6 Darren O’Dea, 26 Kostadin Gadzhalov, 3 Kevin Holt, 14 Mark O’Hara (McGowan 53), 7 Tom Hateley, 4 James Vincent, 30 Cammy Kerr, 33 Craig Wighton, 21 Marcus Haber. Subs: 9 Rory Loy, 11 Danny Williams, 12 David Mitchell, 16 Julen Etxabeguren, 17 Nick Ross, 18 Paul McGowan, 20 Faissal El Bakhtaoui.
Hearts: 1 Jack Hamilton, 24 Smith (Rherras 95), 4 Igor Rossi, 14 John Souttar, 2 Callum Paterson, 19 Krystian Nowak, 6 Perry Kitchen, 7 Jamie Walker (Watt 92), 10 Arnaud Djoum, 15 Don Cowie (Muirhead 65), 20 Bjorn Johnsen. Subs: 3 Faycal Rherras, 5 Alim Ozturk, 13 Viktor Noring, 18 Conor Sammon, 23 Robbie Muirhead, 26 Dario Zanatta, 32 Tony Watt.
Referee: Kevin Clancy