Easton equaliser ensures Dundee's fall from grace

Livingston 1 Dundee 1
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The Independent Online

No one can lose £20 million. Dundee did that and paid the price yesterday when they were relegated from the Scottish Premier League at Almondvale Stadium.

No one can lose £20 million. Dundee did that and paid the price yesterday when they were relegated from the Scottish Premier League at Almondvale Stadium.

The club who spent a fortune they never had in pursuit of playing in Europe will now be in the Scottish First Division, condemned by a goal from Craig Easton, who, as a former Dundee United player, merely rubbed salt into the wound. United themselves were tangled up in a complex relegation issue on what had been dubbed "Survival Saturday". The Scottish Cup finalists secured their own future by winning at Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Some 200 miles to the south, the Dundee players - many in tears - were slumped on the turf and being consoled by many of their 4,000 fans who had taken over Livingston's ground.

Livingston needed a point to beat the drop themselves. Yet the fact that 12th place had changed hands four times meant the only thing that could be guaranteed at Almondvale was the unexpected. That theory was proved correct in the build-up to this encounter, with Livingston announcing that Richard Gough would be leaving the job after just 24 games in charge. The former Rangers and Everton defender wanted to return to the US, insisted the club, for family reasons. Gough says otherwise. Paul Lambert, the Celtic captain, will replace Gough as manager next month, but such a backdrop was hardly helpful to the Livingston players.

However, it was little surprise the relegation picture should embrace the two SPL clubs who went into administration last season and have re-emerged financially leaner but shorn of the quality that helped Livingston win the CIS Cup in 2003 and Dundee to reach the Scottish Cup final a year earlier.

Salary cuts have impacted upon both, and Dundee especially have had to place their faith in youngsters instead of Claudio Caniggia and Fabrizio Ravanelli, whose over-generous wages led to that huge debt. One of those youngsters, Calum MacDon-ald, offered a glimpse of an escape route after 18 minutes.

The teenage left-back was in the wrong position as he burst through the centre of the box to meet a header across goal by Bobby Mann from Steven McNally's cross. MacDonald stabbed it past the goalkeeper, Roddy McKenzie, to an explosion of noise.

However, the optimism of the Dundee fans was punctured just eight minutes later when Livingston equalised to regain control of the relegation issue.

Burton O'Brien threaded a fine pass into Hassan Kachloul, who clipped a cross to the back post, where Easton thumped a header beyond the goalkeeper, Derek Soutar.

Livingston sensed a wind of change and almost went ahead just before the half-hour when Colin McMenamin's low cross eluded everyone and hit the far post. Kachloul should have scored, but his off-balance finish allowed Mann to clear the ball frantically.

The second half was a nervous affair. Dundee launched everything in one last desperate attempt, and Tom McManus almost delivered salvation in the last minute, but his shot hit the post. The margin between success and failure had never been so narrow.

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