Mark McGhee’s clothes stay on but naked truth looks like relegation for Dundee as St Johnstone recover for precious point

Shaun Rooney heads home St Johnstone’s equalizer against Dundee.

These are the bare facts: the Dees are now in grave danger of being relegated back to the cinch Championship following this 1-1 draw with Saints at Dens Park. With just four games to play in the top flight, bottom-club Dundee are five points adrift of the Perth outfit directly above them. They are still to win under McGhee, who was appointed on February 17 to replace James McPake. Ten matches have come and gone since then. McGhee still thinks they can survive but the writing is on the wall.

Dundee led here, courtesy of a tenth-minute strike from Jordan Marshall, but they paid the price for not taking advantage of a quite rotten first-half performance by St Johnstone. Half-time allowed Callum Davidson’s men to regroup and they were far better in the second half, leveling via Shaun Rooney’s header on 68 minutes.

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Given the start to the match, the outcome will be seen as positive for those of a St Johnstone persuasion. Aberdeen and St Mirren lost above them and they are five points behind both teams. Unlike that duo, Saints at least have some momentum. They host the Buddies next weekend and will feel they can still escape a relegation play-off.

Jordan Marshall put Dundee ahead after ten minutes.

Dundee go to Pittodrie next. The Dons are on as bad a run but Dundee, under McGhee, feel like they are sinking. They lack a cutting edge in the final third and concede too many sloppy goals. St Johnstone’s equaliser was an example of that. Spirit is not an issue, but results are.

Backed by a vociferous home support, a Charlie Adam-inspired Dundee started brightly and their opening goal was well-worked. Max Anderson burrowed down the right flank and crossed for Paul McGowan in the penalty box. He slipped the ball to Marshall and the left-back kept his composure to pass the ball back across a flat-footed Zander Clark. Dens Park erupted.

A moment later, McGowan’s close-range effort was blocked by Saints defender Liam Gordon, who lambasted his team-mates for their so-far shoddy showing.

St Johnstone’s fans – more than 2,000 of them had traveled along the banks of the Tay – weren’t happy either. They booed half-an-hour in after another aimless ball forward, with their team second to everything.

Safety is not in clear view for Dundee and their manager Mark McGhee.

Their performance levels did improve towards half time and Ian Lawlor made a good save from a Nadir Ciftci piledriver on 35 minutes, while Callum Hendry fluffed a presentable chance, but no doubt the referee’s whistle for the break was a relief for Saints.

St Johnstone returned to the pitch in better shape. They competed in midfield and attacked with more purpose. Dundee started to pull.

The equalizer came on 68 minutes. Both Jordan McGhee and Cammy Kerr made goal-saving blocks to deny Callum Booth and Cifci in the same move but from the corner that followed, Lawlor and his defenders flailed and Rooney rose to head home from close range.

All the momentum was with St Johnstone now. Dundee looked panicked, with Adam’s distribution awry and their shape abandoned. Lawlor plunged to his left to save from Hendry. Then Rooney swiveled and belted the ball just wide.

Dundee pressed in the last ten minutes but a winner never looked likely. It never does under McGhee. The naked truth looks like relegation, even if the clothes stayed on.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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