Frozen temperatures, icy stands and goals, goals, goals – Dundee’s trip to Motherwell had it all.
The highest-scoring Dundee match of the season ended in despair.
A 98th-minute equaliser from Conor Wilkinson took the wind out of the sails of a seriously impressive performance at Fir Park.
Manager Tony Docherty praised his side for their dominance across the 90 minutes and rightly so.
He also bemoaned the defending for that late equaliser – and rightly so.
A game of major positives but also agonising negatives, Courier Sport analyses what we can learn from the 3-3 draw.
After the disappointment of Mika Biereth’s sixth-minute opener, the first half followed one pattern – Dundee on the ball and probing for an equaliser.
Mostly this season, Docherty’s side have been happy to be without the ball. Content out of possession and waiting for chances to counter.
This was a far different showing. The midfield three of Luke McCowan, Lyall Cameron and Malachi Boateng began to dominate the game.
🔥 Ten-men Motherwell rescued a 𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚 point against Dundee in a six-goal thriller – Stuart Kettlewell’s side now winless in their last eleven games ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/yDa3lYrs6p
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) December 2, 2023
They also used the spaces out wide well, spraying long cross-field passes to switch the point of attack with Owen Beck and Jordan McGhee heavily involved.
The Dark Blues were knocking the ball about well and more than deserved their 2-1 lead by half-time.
Things changed in the second half, Motherwell forced their way back into the game until Harry Paton’s red card saw the visitors on top once more.
But there was no mad rush from the Dee, they were patient in their possession and confident in their play – exemplified by the composure shown by Zach Robinson in slotting home for 3-2.
Sadly that composure throughout the team slipped at the final stage and proved costly.
Only twice under Docherty have Dundee conceded three goals or more – against Celtic and then Rangers.
So that will annoy the Dens boss. He was hugely frustrated with the way his side had thrown away two points and no wonder.
Success this season has been founded on solidity at the back with clean sheets coming out of their ears.
This time that went out the window.
The first goal could have been dealt with better – Antonio Portales and Malachi Boateng kind of tackled each other and the ball popped out to the feet of Biereth.
It was a fine snapshot finish, though, and Dundee’s response to it was excellent.
The second will frustrate as well, a second-phase after a corner – defending set-pieces has been a strength.
Blair Spittal was the original taker and just had too much time to pick out a fine delivery for Bevis Mugabi to nod in for 2-2.
Those two types of goal can happen. The third can’t. Especially with a one-goal lead on 97 minutes.
Straight from a goal-kick, a flick on and a nice touch from Oli Shaw to send Wilkinson through to fire home.
There were chances to win the ball, clear the final danger, before Josh Mulligan was caught out of position with his team-mates unable to cover the space left.
Rustiness can be forgiven after two months out for the youngster but the team defending of that situation meant Dundee didn’t get their just rewards for an impressive display.
It’s not a Premiership match without some VAR controversy. The crowd at Fir Park was getting more and more annoyed in the second half with the VAR interventions.
First a lengthy one to judge whether Mugabi had fouled Joe Shaughnessy in scoring the fourth goal of the afternoon.
Dundee have a case to complain in that one with two hands on the defender’s back. But ultimately it wasn’t a clear and obvious error.
The same two players wrestled at the other end with a free-kick given against Shaughnessy. This time a potential penalty was checked but it looked like six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.
The big call came with the red card for Paton – a high tackle that caught Luke McCowan with studs on the thigh.
The tackle looked unfortunate more than malicious but you can’t stud someone on the thigh and expect to avoid serious trouble.
Despite the final dismay at Fir Park, the quality of play on show from Dundee should not be forgotten.
Lyall Cameron stood out – grabbing his second header of the season against the Steelmen – and so did Luke McCowan.
Owen Beck continued his fine form with a nice nutmeg playing a part in Cameron’s goal and then he himself scored a wonderful second.
That first goal against Hibs has kicked him on even further – that he was in a poacher’s position in open play shows the freedom he’s playing with.
The quality of his first touch, sending Stephen O’Donnell to the shops (he may still be sliding, I haven’t checked), and the finish displayed supreme confidence.
Add in Zach Robinson’s own display of composure and there is a serious goal threat emerging from this Dundee side.
When they combine that with their previous defensive strength, the rest of the Premiership better watch out.