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Dundee 1 Ross County 1: Dark Blues held by Highlanders but edge closer to safety

Darren O'Dea celebrates his penalty goal.
Darren O'Dea celebrates his penalty goal.

Neil McCann  didn’t get the win he craved in his first home game in charge of Dundee but his team still crept closer to safety.

It wasn’t too bad a day for the interim boss, with the 1-1 draw against Ross County moving them five points clear of second-bottom Hamilton Accies with two matches to play.

The visitors grabbed the lead after only four minutes when Liam Boyce flicked the ball into the net from close range.

The Dark Blues gradually pulled themselves back into the match after early dominance from the Highlanders and captain courageous Darren O’Dea blasted home a penalty on 76 minutes after Cammy Kerr had been fouled.

It wasn’t a surprise to see the Dark Blues name the same 11 that started the 1-0 win away to Kilmarnock last weekend.

The good news for the Staggies was that they had star striker Boyce available again after suspension.

The game was only three minutes old when Dundee keeper Scott Bain had to come to his team’s rescue, diving to palm away a curling shot from Michael Gardyne for a corner.

It wasn’t long, though, before Bain was beaten.

It was Boyce – who else? – with his 21st goal of the season, grabbing the fourth-minute opener with a close-range shot after the ball was knocked down by Craig Curran following a cross from Martin Woods.

Some fine play from Curran opened up the home defence on 13 minutes but Bain raced off his line to do just enough to put the County man off.

It was all County and Woods raced half the length of the pitch with the ball before finally being challenged inside the six-yard box.

Dundee had to haul themselves up the pitch and they finally had a decent go at goal on 27 minutes when Faissal El Bakhtaoui shot from 20 yards, with County goalie Scott Fox getting down to save well.

El Bakhtaoui was at it again a couple of minutes later, this time firing over the bar from outside the box.

Kerr tried his luck from distance for the Dark Blues, with Fox well positioned to grab the ball, while Mark O’Hara headed over after he was picked out by a Kevin Holt cross.

Former Dundee United man Ryan Dow came off injured for County on 35 minutes, with Kenny van der Weg taking his place.

It looked like the home team were starting to creep back into the game, with the Highlanders not enjoying as much of the ball as they had been.

And Dundee came within a whisker of an equaliser in first-half stoppage-time when Holt sent the ball over from the left and McGowan got his boot on the ball but sent it wide of the far post.

The Dens men made a switch at the break, with Nick Ross coming on for Tom Hateley.

On 55 minutes, Tim Chow came to County’s rescue when he nodded Marcus Haber’s header off the line.

This was more like it from Dundee now and they came oh so close to levelling when another El Bakhtaoui strike just cleared the Staggies’ bar on the hour.

The hosts made a change on 67 minutes, with Kosta Gadzhalov replacing a hobbling Kevin Gomis, as they continued to search for an equaliser.

Holt was cut down by Jim O’Brien as he rampaged towards the County box but Kerr could only blast the freekick into the wall on 70 minutes.

On 76 minutes, though, the Dark Blues pulled themselves level from the spot.

Kerr was the man who won the penalty, drawing a foul from Curran – the Staggie was also booked for his trouble.

The man who stepped up to take the kick was skipper O’Dea, who blasted the kick high into the net with his left foot.

With just six minutes to go Haber should have wrapped things up for the Dark Blues but he headed straight into the arms of keeper Fox.

Craig Wighton replaced El Bakhtaoui as the hosts continued to look for a winner.

Inside the final minute of the 90, Holt stung the hands of Fox with a fierce shot that was heading inside the post then the four additional minutes failed to provide a winner.

Attendance: 6,812.

Dundee: Bain, Holt, Vincent, O’Dea, Hateley (Ross 46), O’Hara, McGowan, El Bakhtaoui (Wighton 86), Haber, Kerr, Gomis (Gadzhalov 67). Subs not used: Ferrie, Williams, Ojamaa, Higgins.

Ross County: Fox, Naismith, Boyce, O’Brien (Tumilty 53), Chow, Davies, Gardyne, Fraser, Curran (Schalk 79), Dow (Van der Weg 35), Woods. Subs not used: McCarey, Routis, Franks, Dykes.

Referee: Nick Walsh.