It was an early start for us on Sunday morning as we travelled up to Tannadice Park for the last Dundee Derby of the season. The ESPN camera’s were there to cover the midday kick off and like the previous fixtures between the sides this season, it didn’t disappoint.
There had been a couple of weather warnings on the Saturday and although the pitch was not at its best the game went ahead as scheduled. We encountered all four seasons on the journey up to Dundee and feared the worst when upon reaching Perth, we were confronted with heavy snow. However, a couple of miles on it was totally clear.
On consulting the old grey matter, I think the last time I visited Tannadice was for the last game of the 1998/99 season which coincidentally saw United goalkeeper, Sieb Dijkstra’s make his last appearance for the club. The big Dutchman lapped up the friendly taunts from the supporters who chanted about him looking like a ‘Pornstar’!
We got a decent parking space just off Tannadice Street and went for a walk round the area and tried to take a picture that would capture just how close the ground is to their neighbour’s Dens Park stadium! After purchasing tickets we had a browse round the club shop and then headed to the Jerry Kerr stand to familiarise where we would be sitting.
Despite the early kick off time and the miserable wet weather, the pre match atmosphere outside the ground was excellent. The fans mingled freely as ESPN staff stopped people randomly for interviews and any banter or goading between them appeared to be good natured. Although not qualified to comment about any potential post match disorder, there did seem to be an excessive Police presence outside the ground.
As you go through the turnstiles it’s a bit of a tight squeeze as you head up a narrow staircase, although, the montage on the walls of the club crest and old players is quite impressive. The seats were located two rows from the front of the stand above the players tunnel giving you a great view of the pitch.
This was home Manager, Jackie McNamara’s first home Derby and he had to do without several key players through injury and suspension. The most notable of them being Willo Flood, John Rankin, Gavin Gunning and Johnny Russell. In the blue corner, Interim Manager John Brown gave a debut to former Everton goalkeeper, Steve Simonsen, who had signed a short term contract replacing this seasons ever present, Rab Douglas.
When the game got underway it was United who were quicker out the traps. They forced a couple of early chances from Mark Millar and a nice flick at the front post from Jon Daly was deflected for a corner as Dundee were camped in their own eighteen yard box. The game was a bit stop start as Dundee continually gave away free kicks all over the park and on twenty minutes the dimension of the game changed completely.
Richie Ryan who had been given the role of controlling the centre of the United midfield jumped for a high ball with Dundee right back and Captain, Gary Irvine. In real time and from the referee, Bobby Madden’s position, it did look like there was some intent as Irvine led with his arm into the neck of Ryan. It maybe made up for a poor challenge made on Mackay-Steven moments earlier that went unpunished, but in any case Irvine was given a straight red card leaving Dundee to see out the remaining seventy minutes a man lighter.
This was unfortunate as Irvine had started the game well and had the defence organised in dealing with United’s main threats in Jon Daly and Gary Mackay-Steven. Manager, Brown then sacrificed midfielder Nicky Riley with defender, Kyle Benedictus.
Dundee never let their numerical disadvantage affect them and they continued to press up the park. They forced a couple of corners and had a Gary Harkins shot from distance that went just wide.
United moved the ball around well and retained possession but lacked a decent final touch.
Gary Mackay-Steven had tormented Dundee on that left side and hit the bar from a close range header following an excellent Barry Douglas cross. Ten minutes from the break he then forced Simonsen into a good block following another mazy run.
Mark Millar’s delivery from corners caused some problems for the Dundee defence as they attempted to deal with the aerial threat of Daly. Millar also saw a twenty yard shot flash just wide of the left hand post with Simonsen beaten however, both sides went into the break all square.
Before the restart we managed to source out a couple of better seats.I think the guy in front would appreciate a second half without my left knee being jammed against his back! It would appear that this part of the ground doesn’t seem to have seats to cater for the larger or taller gentleman!!
United started the second period in the same similair manner as they started the first. Daly had the ball in the net from a header but the referee had already blown the whistle for offside. Dundee were defending well and as much as United had a lot of the ball they were restricted to very few attacking opportunities. A Brian McLean header and a half chance for Ryan were the only ones of note.
On the hour Jackie McNamara made an interesting substitution, introducing seventeen year old Ryan Gauld for Richie Ryan. Seven minutes later the visitors took a surprise lead and what a way to do it. An over lapping run from Brian Easton on the left saw his cross controlled inside the box by Ryan Conroy. His first touch was excellent allowing him the space on the defender to then power a left foot shot high into the net past Cierzniak.
Conroy celebrated at the corner flag in front of the home end and earned a caution for his actions. He also risked serious injury as someone launched a camera at the jubilant group of Dundee players!
United’s reaction to the goal was to bring on Michael Gardyne for Rory Boulding. The latter had held the ball up well but tended to do a lot of work outside the box meaning he rarely looked like troubling the Dundee defence. Gardyne on the other hand is a bit more direct and had a point to prove after receiving a head knock very early on in the last Derby match.
The home fans were beginning to get frustrated by the team’s inability to break down their neighbours defence, especially as they had gone behind and had an extra man advantage. Tame efforts from Gauld and Gardyne were easily saved by Simonsen before Jon Daly missed one of the best chances of the second half. His powerful shot was saved and his attempted lob on the rebound drifted over the bar.
Daly again went close with a header before another strange substitution from McNamara, when young Robert Thomson replaced the tired legs of Gary Mackay-Steven with two minutes left. It proved almost inspired however, as within seconds a long ball up to Daly was flicked on by the Irishman as it evaded two players in the box and landed at the feet of Gardyne who hit a right foot shot high into the net to equalise.
With four minutes of stoppage time to play, United went in hunt for a winner and they almost got it with a carbon copy of the equaliser. The same two players were involved again with Gardyne taking a Daly knock down first time on his left foot which sliced just past the right hand post.
It ended all square and I think Dundee would be the happier of the two sides given the fact they were down to ten men so early in the game. It was a thoroughly entertaining game and I am sure the 10,731 crowd felt they got value for money. We got away quite smart and can’t say I’m used to staff holding the door open for you when exiting the ground and bidding you farewell!
The stadium itself is quite homely, with the old west stand terrace behind the goal all seated and predominantly used by the away fans. The main stand which was renamed The Jerry Kerr stand in the last decade is almost vintage and is evidently the oldest on view. It is used by both home and away fans depending on the opposition and ticket sales.
The George Fox stand is a two tiered structure which was built twenty years ago and runs the length of the pitch and is what you mainly see of any televised matches at Tannadice. Behind the other goal is the Eddie Thompson stand and is used by the home support. Again it is built similarly to the George Fox with the two tiers.
Any time I’ve been here I’ve enjoyed the visit and coupled with a decent game and genuinely friendly people this has been a particular highlight of the grounds visited to date.