The first Dundee Derby of the 2021-2022 Cinch Premiership season served as a fitting and entertaining example of scrappy derby-day football by two recently promoted SPFL teams.
Played by teams with the two closest home grounds in the UK (only 200m apart!), the atmosphere seemed as if the entire city of Dundee packed the stands. In the home end, the Tannadice faithful unveiled multiple tifos and fan murals as songs in support of the black and tangerines rang around the ground. The away end was rocking as well, in constant competition and chat with the ultras of the Carling Stand.
The first half proved a relatively uneventful affair. Although United was dominant in possession Dundee was able to manage the first two chances of the match with former Celtic man Leigh Griffiths putting a header wide in the eighth minute, and having a half volley saved soon after.
United, whose first half performance was characterized by stellar defensive effort by Scottish international Charlie Mulgrew, picked up their attacking performance in the second quarter of the match. A well saved shot by Dundee keeper Adam Legzdins kept them off the scoresheet, and a Mulgrew free kick flew wide towards the end of the half.
The second half started off with much of the same from both sides. With United mainly in possession, the ball frequently bounced around the pitch, flying in the air and down the wing for most of the period. Dundee almost took the lead in the 73rd minute, but a Lee Griffiths rebound sitter miss summed up a forgettable match for the controversy-mired man.
It was in the 80th minute when the match finally came alive. An initial venture into the middle of the box failed, but the ball was soon tipped slightly out to American-born ex-DC United man Ian Harkes, who fired the ball into the net from 20 yards out. The shot proved too much for the Dundee keeper, who managed to get a hand on the ball only for it to bounce up into the top corner of the net.
Although late, the goal did not kill Dundee’s resolve. They continued to press United, almost achieving a late stoppage time winner if it were not for Mulgrew’s perfectly positioned goal line clearance. In one of the last kicks of the game, Leigh Griffiths took a free kick well positioned for a cross into the box, only to mishit the ball for an opposition goal kick.
By the full time whistle Tannadice was rocking, with the famous “Its United” blaring over the loudspeakers and thousands singing along. While Harkes placed in the winner, Jeando Fuchs finished with the man of the match award. The Cameroonian’s ball movement and prowess in the United midfield made him an irreplaceable part of the Derby Win. United’s keeper Benjamin Siegrist finished with the highest overall match rating of 8.92, making three important saves in the shutout win.
United now sit well placed at 5th in the Premiership, with wins over Rangers, St Johnstone, Dundee, and a draw with Celtic. Dundee however lie in very different straights. Without a win over 7 matches, they sit dead last in the table with only 3 points to their name.
The stands were also packed with St Andrews students. While St Andrews lacks the football accessibility of universities like Edinburgh or Glasgow, Dundee provided only a quick 40-minute trip from the bus depot.
I personally found the support was overwhelmingly welcoming. As an American sat between three of my English mates, I was originally unsure of how we would be perceived in a sold-out atmosphere. However, after a half of football we found ourselves clad scarves singing about the black and tangerines and talking football with strangers in the line for steak pies. Overall, it is an experience I would highly recommend to any sports interested student.
While not the 6-2 classic of 2019, the first 2021-2022 Dundee Derby served as a dramatic match to remember in the long history of this storied fixture. The next derby, coming on January 2nd, surely will not be one to miss, as the venue switches back down the road from Tannadice to Dens.