It is that all too familiar case among the Dundee support of ‘what could have been’ following our draws with Hamilton and Kilmarnock which both had late drama ending in heartbreak both times for the Dee.
Our trip was your bog-standard bottom of the table clash. A Dundee victory would have propelled us above the Accies and out of the bottom two but Hamilton were hoping for the ‘new manager’ bounce that some teams produce after the appointment of a new head coach just days prior to our clash.
We had a busy January window which saw arrivals in abundance through the door at Dens Park with no fewer than five players made their debuts for us in a clash that I said a week earlier was a ‘must win.’
It was one of our debutants Scott Wright who opened the scoring in this crucial game when he slotted home with twenty-five minutes left to play. It looked like Dundee would claim that all important win but with the game heading into the 91st minute, Hamilton silenced the Dundee support by taking advantage of a poor goalkeeping clearance to level the score and keep the gap between the teams the same.
It was a boot in the *baws (that’s *balls if you aren’t fluent Scottish dialect). Don’t get me wrong, Hamilton have been that team that most would love to play each week this season but with a new man in the dugout, they looked a far better outfit. Going into the final minutes of this game a goal ahead, we should have been able to keep it simple to see out the match and claim victory. Instead, we were left with that sick feeling in our stomachs which made another appearance a few days later.
Kilmarnock were the visitors on a cold, dark night at Dens Park on Wednesday and we got off to a flyer. Recent signing from Sunderland Andrew Nelson fired Dundee ahead after another January signing Craig Curran threw his weight around to put a Killie defender off and win the header for the ball to fall at Nelson’s feet. With two players in front of the young striker, he still managed to squeeze the ball into the goalkeepers bottom left hand side. The Ayrshire team levelled the scoring but that man Nelson popped up again to put us into the lead with a pure strikers’ instinct goal – aka a toe poke – but it was a damn fine toe poke at that.
Killie found a way to draw level again early in the second half when Martin Woods needlessly gave away a free-kick which was brilliantly slotted home and from there on in, it was backs to the wall for this Dundee team who fell out of the match. The whole team look visibly tired which is understandable considering a bulk of them have only had a few days training up in Scotland and despite a few scares, they looked like they would manage to hold out for a point against this Killie side who were throwing everything at us.
Then came our moment to snatch all three points in the 95th minute.
Andrew Dales collected the ball deep in our own half as the whistles rang round Dens but as he proceeded up the field, those whistles turned into encouragement for one last assault on the away team’s goal. Then, as quick as you like, he found substitute Kenny Miller bursting through on goal and with one fine ball through the middle, the veteran striker was facing their keeper one-on-one. At the time it seemed Miller took one touch too many as the Killie defence got back to try and put him off but he was brought down in the box and Dundee were awarded a penalty!!
Our last penalty at Dens was way back in a 3-0 defeat by Hearts and you can guess by looking at the score line, we failed to net after young defender Calvin Miller dragged it way wide. Many fans were vocal as to why Kenny Miller, a proven striker, didn’t take it but here he was, stepping up to the plate.
Agonisingly, his attempt was piss poor and instead of putting his head down and walloping it down the middle or into the corner, he side footed it for an easy save. From the euphoria of coming way with all three points was replaced yet again with that sick feeling. The whole ground deflated and the final whistle went. We had still managed a point and if offered to me before hand, I would have said it was a very good result to get but in the other results up and down the country, Hamilton had managed to win to open up a three point gap between us.
Walking out the ground you could feel and see the dejection of throwing away this golden opportunity. In the space of four days Dundee had conceded a goal in stoppage time that cost us the victory and then missed a penalty, also in stoppage time, to miss out on snatching the win. Even now, it’s deflating that we haven’t got another four points to our tally and I can’t help but have this horrible feeling that we could be looking back at the end of the season at these matches cursing our luck – not that I’m full of the dramatics right now.
I said last week that the Hamilton match was a must win, not just because we badly needed it but because it would have put us above them and possible kill any ‘new manager’ bounce they would get off it. Some say it was more of a ‘must not lose’ and though that probably does apply, it had to be a victory for me to make our lives a little more comfortable.
One thing that stands out are the new players. Jim McIntyre has turned this team around ability wise and you now go into matches thinking we will score goals. Ryan McGowan in defence looks like he will be a shrewd loan signing from Bradford while winger Andrew Dales, strikers Andrew Nelson and Craig Curran have added pace and fight up-front for us. Andreas Hadenius looks like he could be a unit as a defensive midfielder and suddenly the fans are feeling we have a team that can do enough to safely stay in this league.
With a week off due to it being the Scottish Cup and us already being put out by Queen of the South, we have over a week for this team to work, get to know each other better and improve their fitness.
Up next for us is a trip to Livingston who have become notoriously difficult to defeat on their own pitch. However, they are currently on a seven-match winless run and with our up-turn in performances and looking much better in attack, there is every possibility we can come away with a result. Before the transfer window I would have written off this game but now I am starting to head into more matches quite the optimist.
It is a tough run in for all three teams at the bottom but I can honestly see it being a battle between us and Hamilton for tenth spot. One half of me cannot help but feel we will achieve this but then the other cannot help but look at the previous two results and thinking ‘what if?’
MON THE DEE!