A frustrated Charlie Adam says the kind of lax defending that allowed Raith Rovers to grab a point “could be the difference” between success and failure this season for Dundee.
The Dark Blues looked all set for the perfect response to their opening day thumping at Hearts by picking up two league wins from two.
A super first-half strike from boyhood Dee Adam – his first competitive goal at Dens – saw the home side lead for the majority of the clash.
However, failure to get a second goal that would have killed off any hopes for the visitors proved costly as defensive weakness allowed Frankie Musonda to net with four minutes remaining.
After the Englishman had put a free header over the bar previously, Dundee failed to heed the warning. This time Dan Armstrong’s delivery bypassed both Jonathan Afolabi and Jordan Marshall at the near post, young goalie Calum Ferrie was hesitant in coming out and Musonda beat marker Max Anderson to volley in from inside the six-yard box.
Manager James McPake called it “criminal” defending that saw Rovers grab a point and leave Dundee five points behind leaders Dunfermline after just three matches.
Former Liverpool, Blackpool and Rangers man Adam said: “That could be the difference.
“But it doesn’t matter what level you’re playing at – whether you’re in the Champions League, the Premiership or the Championship here in Scotland.
“If you switch off and you’re only one goal up, an away team has always got an opportunity to score a goal – and Raith have done that so we’re frustrated.
“It’s part and parcel of me being here. I need to try and coach players through the game and help others at difficult times.
“It seems that when we are coming into the last period of the game, it’s a little bit nervy.
“So we need to try and get a grip of the ball and stamp our authority on the match to just see the games out.”
He added: “When you go to 86 minutes and it’s only 1-0, they’ve always got an opportunity with a set-play.
“And the manager said at half-time to make sure we were on it at set-plays.
“But we end up losing two points.
“We had enough chances to get that all-important second goal and we had a stonewall penalty turned down.
“But when you don’t get that second goal, you always run the risk of conceding which we did.
“It’s unfortunate because during spells I felt that was our best performance since I came to the club.
“It would have been great to get back-to-back home wins in the league having beaten Morton here the week before.
“That’s what we had targeted after losing 6-2 at Tynecastle on the opening-day – two home wins at Dens.
“Had we got that, we would have been further up the league as well.
“It’s a blow because we felt these two games were winnable.
“To lose that goal so late was disappointing but we just have to regroup and go again.
“We’ll have to pick ourselves up because the games are coming thick and fast.
“We have three games coming up within the space of a week starting away to Alloa on Friday night.
“It’s a short season so we have just got to try and find a way and a solution to win football matches.”
Raith came into the contest full of confidence after netting eight goals in their opening two league fixtures and that was clear from the outset.
Dundee, meanwhile, were looking to build on a hard-fought 1-0 win over Morton the week before and manager McPake made no personnel changes to his starting XI.
He did, however, keep the visitors guessing by changing from a 4-4-2 set-up to 4-3-3 with Danny Mullen supporting lone striker Afolabi from the left wing ahead of a midfield three of Shaun Byrne, Adam and Graham Dorrans.
The extra quality in the Dark Blues ranks began to show as the half wore on, though the gusting wind was causing all sorts of problems.
Marshall fired into the side-netting after getting in behind before Lee Ashcroft nodded an Adam free-kick just wide of Jamie MacDonald’s upright.
That extra class in the boots of former Scotland man Adam showed on 41 minutes as he smashed in an unstoppable drive from 25 yards to give his side a deserved lead.
And it looked like the Dark Blues would push on after a bright start to the second half. Adam should have added a second with a header from close range, though the flag was up while a big shout for a handball in the area by Iain Davidson was turned down.
The closest anyone came to making it 2-0 was Raith midfielder Regan Hendry incredibly smashing a clearance off his own crossbar and out.
Just like the previous week against Morton, the visitors came into the game in the closing stages.
This time, however, Dundee were unable to keep Raith out.
Rovers hadn’t even tested Ferrie in the home goal until the 74th minute when he gathered a tame Armstrong trundler.
If you look at our midfield, I think our legs took over in the end.
However, the rookie goalie was beaten 10 minutes later.
Ferrie will cop a chunk of the blame after coming for the corner but stopping. However, it was a catalogue of errors from Dundee that allowed the win to slip from their grasp.
Rovers, though, made continued their unbeaten start as they returned to the second tier. For skipper Kyle Benedictus it was a deserved point as he made his first return to Dens Park after leaving for Stark’s Park in 2015.
Benedictus said: “I thought we deserved our point. On balance of play second-half, we were the better team.
“Dundee were good in the first-half but the more the game went on the stronger we became.
“Before we came here, we knew about the quality players they’ve got.
“They’ve got quality in the middle of the park.
“If you look at our midfield, I think our legs took over in the end.
“Dundee have quality, Charlie Adam and Graham Dorrans have got quality but I just think boys in our team are so fit you could see that in the last 25 minutes or so.
“Paul Smith (assistant boss) had been saying that all week. If we could stay in the game as long as possible, we could get on top in midfield.
“Obviously we didn’t come here to get beat. We gave it a go in the first-half but I think they showed their quality during that spell.
“By the end of the game, I felt we were the stronger team.”
Despite holding them to a draw, Benedictus expects his old outfit Dundee to be fighting it out at the top of the table.
And, after an unbeaten start, he’s not ruling out a play-off push for his side.
“I wouldn’t stand here and say that Hearts aren’t favourites,” he added.
“They’re favourites for a reason.
“But we gave them a good game in the cup earlier this season when two refereeing decisions killed us.
“So it just goes to show we’ve got ability in our squad and we can push on.
“Hearts and Dundee will be up there. But for the rest of us you just don’t know what can happen. . .
“Some teams have lost their first three games but we’ve made a good start so have got a head-start on them.”
On the Dark Blues, he added: “I’ve been at Dundee and I know what it’s like with the pressure.
“Obviously there’s no fans. It’s disappointing coming back here for the first time with no supporters.
“But I know how the pressure can be here. It’s hard but they’ve got experience and quality within their dressing-room, so they’ll definitely be up there.””