Dundee manager James McPake has revealed the thinking behind his substitutions during the loss to Partick Thistle.
The Dark Blues were leading 1-0 with 85 minutes on the clock at Dens thanks to Paul McGowan’s goal, only to collapse and concede three goals to the Jags.
It was a dramatic and dismal ending to the match for the home fans, who thought their team was about to close the gap on Championship leaders Dundee United and Ayr to just three points.
Some felt that McPake was wrong to first replace the experienced Shaun Byrne with 16-year-old Finlay Robertson just after the hour then take off the even more experienced McGowan and throw on 18-year-old Josh McPake on 73 minutes.
He also switched Sean Mackie with Josh Todd after 65 minutes but it was the introduction of the teenage duo that some fans homed in on.
In a frank answer to his critics, the Dens boss shed some light on why he did what he did while admitting, in hindsight, he probably would have done things differently.
McPake said: “I put subs on when we were winning but we lost the game.
“At the time I thought we were struggling to deal with (Thistle striker) Kenny Miller getting into pockets of space. That’s why Fin went on.
“Paul McGowan was dead on his feet on what was his 200th game for the club.
“What people didn’t know is that he hadn’t trained all week because his partner Rosie had a baby on Tuesday and the wee boy was poorly.
“It was touch and go whether Paul was even going to play. We shaped up on Friday without him in our team, even though we were desperate for him to play.
“Nine o’clock on Saturday morning was when we found out everything was OK and that he was coming in to play.
“It was a minor miracle to get that performance for 73 minutes out of Paul.
“I think he was outstanding in the game so I can see why people were questioning the decision. Even I was questioning whether I should keep him on or not.
“It would have been unfair on him, though, because he was either going to get injured or do something in the game because he had given the team so much.”
McPake is prepared to take the rough with the smooth and highlighted a couple of other occasions when his decisions became talking points.
He added: “I did get praise at Dunfermline when I made changes at half-time and we came back.
“That’s great as a manager to get that.
“I also got criticised for not playing Finlay Robertson in a derby.
“I have to take the stick when I get stick. I don’t hide.
“Do I stand by the changes? Probably not because we lost the game.
“If I could go back and do it differently then….
“What I will do, though, is stand by the Paul McGowan one because I would have been putting a good player at risk of injury had I kept him on the pitch.”
The Dundee boss, who takes his team down to Somerset Park to face Ayr tomorrow night, has done the post-mortem on the Partick defeat and is looking for a huge improvement from his players tomorrow.
He said: “We’ve watched it back as a staff and with the players.
“It was disappointing and a missed opportunity – all the words you can throw out there.
“The thing that stood out was that we should have been out of sight but we weren’t.
“We had a good meeting but that means nothing because we lost three points.
“It is still important to go over what we should have done and could have done.
“We should have seen that game out but were really poor in the second half,” added McPake.
“It probably wasn’t as bad as I said it was when I came out after the game.
“We did have chances but maybe that’s me sugar-coating it because it was nowhere near good enough.
“If you had stopped that clock on 85 minutes what a fantastic weekend it would have been for us.
“That’s this league, though, and the bigger picture is that it is so unpredictable.
“You need to be at it for the whole game.”