Perfect Start to 2016 for The Dark Blues

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Dundee came from behind to grab the New Year derby honours in a 2-1 win at Dens Park on Saturday 2nd January 2016. Blair Spittal put Dundee United ahead with an early free kick, but Kane Hemmings struck back late in the first half. Nick Ross's winner just after the hour sealed the victory that the supporters craved, sending them home singing happily. Sadly the day was marred, however, by a bad injury that saw James McPake stretchered off before United's goal.

Dundee made two changes from Boxing Day; Paul McGinn and Cammy Kerr replaced Gary Irvine and Greg Stewart. United made three changes, fielding their new keeper Eiji Kawashima and bringing in Blair Spittal and Sean Dillon for Mark Durnan and Callum Morris.

United's eager start belied their lowly position as they quickly settled into their game and put the Dundee defence under pressure. However, the first chance fell to the Dee. Kane Hemmings raced onto Gunning's short backpass, but Kawashima was out quickly to block and then save Gary Harkins' follow up.

United took the lead and Dundee lost captain McPake following an unorthodox corner by Scott Fraser after nine minutes. He pulled his cross deep, looking for John Rankin. McPake raced out to block, fouling Rankin 25 yards out, but injuring himself badly in the process. After five minutes of treatment he was taken off on a stretcher to be replaced by Kosta Gadzhalov. Blair SPITTAL took the free kick, whipping it over the ball and into Scott Bain's top right corner.

The Tangerines took heart from their goal and for a spell looked anything but a team adrift at the bottom of the table. A good run by Spittal down the right made space for Billy McKay whose snapshot was well taken by Bain.

The Dark Blues meanwhile were struggling to get into the game, being let down by some careless passing. Kane Hemmings was working hard, but was often isolated from the midfield. He made the best of the service he did get and forced a save from Kawashima after taking Low's pass, shrugging off Dixon and shooting from a tough angle.

The game might have been scrappy but United were having the better of it and came agonisingly close to extending their lead from another corner. Fraser's fierce inswinger struck McGinn and was scrambled off the line by Bain and Kevin Holt with the visiting supporters and players already celebrating. The assistant referee had no doubt however; the ball hadn't crossed the line.

The Dark Blues did well to survive a difficult spell in which Bain had to save well from Rankin's fierce 25 yarder. There were then penalty appeals at either end when Holt challenged Ryan McGowan, and then Spittal tackled Nicky Low. Referee Mr Clancy managed to annoy everyone except the neutrals by waving away both appeals.

The Dee were back on level terms after 40 minutes with exactly the sort of soft goal that has haunted United's season. Low swung a free kick into the goalmouth where Kawashima fumbled the ball. HEMMINGS' reactions were sharpest, and he hooked a volley straight back into the net for his sixth goal in three games.

United responded well to the equaliser and launched a couple of dangerous attacks that stretched the Dark Blue defence late in the first half.

There was some serious controversy before the break. Nick Ross fouled Guy Demel, who reacted badly to the challenge, prompting a bad tempered ruck involving several players. Only the original culprits were booked. Demel was then fortunate to stay on the park following an off the ball challenge on Low only seconds after play restarted.

After the break United were never again able to recreate the fluent attacks that had troubled Dundee in the first half. The Dark Blues' defence and midfield started to look increasingly comfortable. The Dee might not have been playing as well as they can, but they were much more solid and always looked capable of snatching a goal against a nervous United defence.

The winning goal arrived after 61 minutes. Harkins' free kick was cleared only as far as Nick ROSS, hovering on the edge of the penalty area. His shot flicked off Sean Dillon to leave Kawashima helpless and put the Dee into a lead they never looked like losing.

Paul McGowan came close to a killer third a few minutes later. Cammy Kerr set him up to burst past Dillon's challenge and clear on goal, but Kawashima managed to touch his shot round the post.

United kept fighting and trying to play their way Dundee's massed midfield and defence, but their efforts became increasingly desperate as the Dark Blues strangled the game. Kevin Thomson came on for Gary Harkins, and then Gary Irvine replaced Cammy Kerr. The changes allowed Dundee to see out the game calmly.

After sending on Darko Bodul for Chris Erskine the Tangerines took off Gavin Gunning and sent on Simon Murray. This left them playing a 4-3-3 formation with Spittal as an emergency right back. The gamble backfired when great play by Hemmings released Low into space on United's right. Demel brought the midfielder down from behind to earn a second yellow card. It seemed a soft booking, but Demel may have exhausted the referee's patience in the first half.

Without the powerful Demel in midfield United lost their shape. The only worrying incident for the Dee was when Gary Irvine conceded a foul just outside his penalty area in injury time. United couldn't take advantage of the free kick and the points were safe for the Dark Blues.

This was far from a pretty game, with precious little elegant play. Dundee's win was all about effort, coolness and strong character to overcome a difficult first half and grind out the win that the supporters were so desperate to see. The Dark Blue defence responded particularly well to the loss of James McPake, and Scott Bain didn't have to make a save in the second half. Dundee's win gives them a little bit of breathing space above the play-off spot, and leaves United in deep trouble at the bottom. One Dee who will be particularly happy tonight is young Cammy Kerr, who was starting his first Premiership game and pleased the supporters with an energetic and effective performance on the right, picking up the sponsor's man of the match award.

Dundee FC 4-4-1-1

McGinn, McPake (Gadazhalov 14), Konrad, Holt
Kerr (Irvine 76), McGowan, Ross, Low
Harkins (Thomson 70)

Unused subs: Mitchell (gk), Loy, Calder, Skelly

Goals: Hemmings (40), Ross (61)

Booked: McPake (foul on Rankin), Bain (retaliation), Ross (foul on Demel), Konrad (foul on Erskine), Irvine (foul on Murray)

Dundee United 3-4-2-1

Dillon, McGowan, Gunning (Murray 76)
Spittal, Demel, Rankin, Dixon
Fraser, Erskine (Bodul 66)

Unused subs: Zwick (gk), Souttar, Telfer, Spark, Donaldson

Goal: Spittal (15)

Booked: Demel (twice, retaliation & foul on Low), Dixon (foul on Kerr)

Sent off: Demel (two yellows)

Referee: Kevin Clancy. Assistants: David McGeachie, Douglas Ross. 4th official: Don Robertson.

Attendance: 11,025

Report: James Christie