DUNDEE’S determined push to get themselves into the First Division promotion mix made another advance yesterday with this hard-fought win dovetailing with league-leading Ross County’s progress being halted, temporarily at least, due to the intervention of the winter weather at Somerset Park.
The gap may still be eight points but with the two sides scheduled to meet on Saturday in Dingwall, the race for the SPL may be about to take on a more nail-biting turn.
This was an afternoon when the Dens Park side had to show another dimension to their game. Things were initially cruising along for them as they seemed set to continue their free-scoring form of late by racing to an early two-goal lead and seeing their opponents reduced to ten men as Kevin Holt was sent off for a second bookable offence.
However, a goal for Queens just after the break followed by an ordering off for Nicky Riley to even up the numbers saw Barry Smith’s men having to resort to grit and resilience to see themselves over the finishing line with all three points.
Smith was far from happy with referee Charlie Richmond’s treatment of Riley, whose red card means he will miss the showdown in Dingwall. Having picked up a yellow for being deemed to have over-exuberantly celebrated Dundee’s opening goal he then got another for alleged simulation after the interval. “[The referee] said there wasn’t enough contact for him to go down – but there was contact,” said Smith, shaking his head in frustration. He was happier with his side’s resolve in the aftermath. “We’ve got a good team and it was a good team performance from everyone today.”
It didn’t look like being anything other than a lop-sided scoreline in favour of the hosts after an opening half hour when nearly everything fell into place for them. The opening goal arrived after only eight minutes as Gary Irvine crossed to feed Steven Milne, whose lay-off was nudged home by Jake Hyde.
The besieged Lee Robinson in the visitors’ goal made a fine stop to divert a drive from Matt Lockwood shortly afterwards, but he could only temporarily stem the Dark Blue tide. Some impressive wing-play saw Ryan Conroy pick out fellow wide man Riley at the far post and he volleyed to put Dundee two up.
It was disintegrating horribly for Gus McPherson’s men and things took a further turn for the worse as Holt picked up two yellow cards in the space of four minutes, the second for a needless push on Riley.
There was a low-key start to the second half but most inside the stadium were stunned when Chris Higgins pulled one back for Queens with a free header after he was left unmarked at a set piece. Within minutes the agony was piling up for the home fans as Riley – on a tightrope after his innocuous first-half booking – received another followed by a red for what Mr Richmond adjudged to be a dive on the edge of the visitors’ box.
Inevitably it was a much more evenly contested affair after this, but the visitors only rarely threatened to get what would have earlier seemed like a most unlikely equaliser.
Dundee dug in and weathered the storm with substitute Calum Elliot almost sealing victory for them with a dizzying run and searing shot. Nevertheless there were more than a few Dundonian hearts in mouths as Rab Douglas only denied Kevin Smith late on with a fine stretching save.