Dundee United have stolen the headlines in recent weeks. A terrible January transfer window, fan fury, goalkeeping gaffes, sackings and surprise hirings. Dundee should have been taking a well earned headline-grabbing rest but they just can’t help themselves. Gary Bowyer’s men are currently in a difficult position within the Championship and there is no certainty they will win promotion.
Some Dees supporters christened this campaign as ‘HMS Piss the League’. On Tuesday night at Dens, ‘HMS PTL’ hit choppy waters as Partick Thistle ran out 3-1 winners on an evening which anger and frustration in the form of booing was the soundtrack. In the build up to the match, Bowyer said: “From a supporter’s point of view, I’d be more concerned if the team wasn’t creating anything and it wasn’t having a go.”
Against Thistle, Dundee didn’t create much and didn’t really have a go. Not the norm for title chasers. They were rotten in the first-half, going into the break 1-0 down. Back in November they recovered from a two-goal deficit against Thistle at half-time to win 3-2. This time there was no reaction. The performance and attitude, even, summed up by conceding the third goal in the same minute Jordan McGhee scored to make it 2-1.
They've won just twice in the league this year and what should be of concern is that this was an opportunity. Bowyer knew it. Embracing SnappyDee, the club mascot, before kick-off and attempting to gee up the fans. Dundee could have put pressure on leaders Queen’s Park but the four-point gap remains. Another opportunity missed. A seven-game winning run in all competitions at the end of the year was ended with an inexplicable 4-2 loss at home to relegation-battlers Arbroath. Some Dundee fans hadn’t even taken their seat by the time they were 2-0 down due to difficulty getting into Dens. A few weeks later, they eased past Queen's Park, winning 3-0. It was followed up by a draw at Hamilton Accies, bottom of the table at the time.
Fans simply can’t trust this Dundee side, who miss injured defender Tyler French, because they don’t know which one is going to turn up, while Bowyer just can’t quite seem to get the blend right on a consistent basis. The side are at their most dangerous when Zach Robinson and Alex Jakubiak feature together, the latter, however, wasn’t brought on during the week until after the 80th minute. There is a squad of players more than capable of winning the league.
Individuals full of quality and Premiership experience even if there have been some interesting decisions made on a key trio. Zak Rudden was the club's joint-top scorer when he was allowed to join Tayside rivals St Johnstone, while midfield stalwart Paul McGowan dropped into League One, joining Dunfermline Athletic on loan. Then there is the curious case of Shaun Byrne. Told he was surplus to requirements at the start of the season, when he has played he has impressed.
The good news is that they remain second and Cove Rangers, managed by former Dee boss Paul Hartley, present ideal opposition this weekend – but the same could be said for Inverness CT last weekend.
It is hard to look past that final-day meeting between Queen's Park and Dundee at Ochilview as a possible winner-takes-all encounter. For the losers, the spoils may just be a play-off final with Dundee United. If it was Dundee, it would only prove the Tannadice Street fault line to be at its most active.