THIS WAS no way to treat an old friend. The first Dundee derby for two-and-a-half years was welcomed with fervour by both sets of supporters, for whom the withdrawal period was over. It has been a long time since the paying customers at Tannadice have been able to taunt their opposing numbers with quite the same intensity or glee.
Unfortunately for them, they witnessed a shabby match which was a sterile, somewhat nebulous affair, which Dundee won 1-0.
However, for the Dundee fans, the chance to gesticulate and celebrate on these terraces must have been especially welcome. Having spent two years sampling the First Division delights of Brechin, Forfar and Meadowbank, it has taken them two and a half years to travel across the road.
The floodlights of Dens Park and Tannadice, situated 100 yards from each other, are almost entwined, but, in terms of the ability and achievement of the two teams, the distance has often seemed closer to 100 miles.
Since their last season in the Premier League, the whole structure of the Dundee club has changed, from their chairman down. Ron Dixon, the Canadian entrepreneur, has boosted the coffers with his own money, and Simon Stainrod has succeeded Gordon Wallace and Iain Munro into the manager's chair. Stainrod has set about re-structuring the team his own way, scouting throughout Europe and spending Dixon's money regularly, surrounding himself with a collection of Anglos, Caledonians and Visigoths.
In his first season in the hot seat he has had to learn quickly and soon found out that he cannot survive for too long on one good result against Rangers. Since their 4-3 win at Dens Park, Dundee had not won a match until yesterday.
Stainrod has big plans for this club, which has lain in the shadow cast by its more illustrious neighbours for too long. He must envy the stability of United, whose manager Jim McLean has been in power for 20 years. In that time he has taken them to victory in the three major tournaments in Scotland, and has made them a respected name throughout Europe.
The man had done his homework before this match and his side rarely gave United the chance to settle into their familiar passing pattern, and, although their danger man, Duncan Ferguson, won most of the offerings in the air, he received little or no support on the ground. Unfortunately, the passion and fervour so vividly displayed on the terraces did not transfer itself to the players.
For long periods the action was confined to midfield, although United could be aggrieved at referee Louis Thow turning down their penalty claims after 34 minutes, after John O'Neil had been sandwiched in the penalty area.
The deciding goal was scored with 10 minutes remaining, and appropriately on a day when no recognisable goal chances were created, it came from the penalty spot. The Dutch winger Ivo den Bieman cut in from the right and as he prepared to round the goalkeeper, Alan Main, he was brought to the ground, giving the referee no option but to point to the spot. Billy Dodds made no mistake.
Probably the biggest talking point came after the final whistle when Victor Ferreyra, the United substitute, landed a left hook on Dundee's assistant manager, Jim Duffy. The two had clashed seconds before the whistle and carried on their argument in full view of the standside linesman.
The United man was later called into the referee's room and was informed that the matter would be reported to the authorities. It was altogether too passionate an end to such a tepid game.
Dundee United: A Main; J Clark, M Malpas, J McInally, F van der Hoorn, D Narey, J O'Neil, G Johnson, A Cleland, D Ferguson, P Connolly. Subs: V Ferreyra, D Bowman. Manager: J McLean.
Dundee: P Mathers; A Dinnie, S Campbell, J Duffy, K Bain, G McKeown, I den Bieman, D Vrto, I Gilzean, B Dodds, J McQuillan. Subs: S Beedie, A Dow. Manager: S Stainrod.
Referee: L Thow (Ayr).
Goal: Dodds pen (0-1, 80 min).Reuse content