It may have been a perfect September day in Montrose but Dundee boss James McPake and his side have some work to do after an imperfect performance at Links Park.
The Dark Blues’ latest warm-up match of pre-season ended in a 2-2 draw against the Gable Endies.
An early penalty from Graham Dorrans was cancelled out by Craig Johnston in the first half as was Lee Ashcroft’s header shortly after half-time with Graham Webster netting in the closing stages.
Being only their second 90 minutes in over six months, McPake’s men are still shaking off the rust that’s developed during lockdown.
That’s understandable at this stage of their preparations and there were plenty of positives to take out of the exercise.
For one, seeing Charlie Adam donning the Dundee shirt for the first time since signing last Tuesday and, in flashes, showing the quality he possesses.
He sent in an enticing cross for fellow new boy Ashcroft to power home the second Dundee goal of the day and the former Dunfermline man continued to show why the manager had been so keen to bring him to Dens.
Dorrans again looked fit and sharp and made no mistake from the spot after Declan McDaid was brought down in the area within the opening minute following good wide play.
Centre-back Jordon Forster also got his first match after returning from injury.
And there were moments where the inter-play came together, had Fin Robertson finished from 12 yards after a passing move that saw eight Dundee players involved from front to back it would have been a goal fit to win any match, friendly or not.
However, there are a few issues to be ironed out for McPake and his backroom staff.
It was clear following the late equaliser how frustrated the Dark Blues were, particularly Ashcroft, at letting their lead slip.
Whether it was tiredness after 90 minutes in the sun, players being in new positions after second half substitutions or just going to sleep, the League One side played Fraser Macleod in behind far too easily.
A simple turn around the corner had the Montrose man with only Jack Hamilton to beat. He chose, though, to set up Webster for an easy tap-in. There was a strong suggestion of offside which could have spared Dundee’s blushes but the flag stayed down.
The first goal, too, will frustrate the Dens men, particularly starting goalie Calum Ferrie. After clearing the initial corner, Johnston was left free in the middle as he beat the keeper to the cross and flicked goalwards.
The need for a third striker in the squad was also made clear.
Neither Danny Mullen nor Alex Jakubiak made the squad against the Gable Endies with Paul McGowan and young Lyall Cameron leading the line in the 3-5-2 set-up.
Mullen is nearing a return to fitness while Jakubiak picked up an ankle knock against Peterhead last week that’s being assessed by the club.
Both technically gifted though they are, McGowan and Cameron are also two of the smallest players in the squad and up against the aerial power of former Dee Kerr Waddell in the Montrose defence, long balls were never an option.
That saw plenty of playing out through the back three and looking to switch play for the pacey wing-backs McDaid and Cammy Kerr.
Stewart Petrie’s Montrose, though, are a good team, a stubborn one, and they dealt fairly well with most of the attacks from open play.
Their defence was only unpicked by a penalty and the quality of Adam’s delivery from set-pieces in the end.
An out-and-out frontman may well have made the difference and the Dens boss has said he’s on the lookout for one.
Overall, it was something of a mixed bag for the Dark Blues on the North Sea coast but more minutes in the legs and sharpness on the ball for the players is welcome.
McPake, though, will be looking for more improvement from his side as they take on old boss Paul Hartley and his Cove Rangers side home and away this week.
Dundee: Ferrie (Hamilton 46), Kerr, McGhee (Trialist 81), Forster (Mulligan 59), Dorrans, McGowan, McDaid, Ashcroft, Robertson, Cameron (Elliott 59), Adam (Anderson 70).
Unused subs: Blacklock, Murray, Fleming, D Strachan.
Montrose: Lennox, C Ballantyne, Steeves, Allan, Waddell (Macleod 80), Masson (Watson 68), Milne, CF Ballantyne (Connelly 80), Hawke (R Campbell 59), Johnston, Quinn (Webster 68).
Unused subs: I Campbell, Fleming.