In this week’s Talking Football, Courier Sports writers Ian Roache and Neil Robertson discuss THAT penalty decision, ponder what might have been for Dundee in Inverness and consider a merger as raised by Jim Spence.
Q: Now then, let’s start with the infamous penalty award. St Johnstone’s fury was absolutely justified, was it not?
IR: I was at McDiarmid and it was certainly the “game-changer” that Saints manager Tommy Wright claimed it was. The deflating thing for the home team was they had put their heart and soul into getting ahead of the Hoops only to have referee Craig Thomson ruin their hard work. They also were denied a stonewaller when Scott Brown took down Danny Swanson. In saying all that, Thomson does deserve credit for subsequently getting in touch with Wright to discuss the matter.
NR: I was watching the game on TV at home and within seconds of the penalty being awarded, replays showed it was the wrong decision. It seems crazy that when you have the technology to quickly clear up incidents of this kind football still refuses to go down the path trodden by so many other sports and introduce some form of TMO (television match official). Saints’ ire was perfectly understandable, especially as they were denied a stonewall penalty of their own when they played Celtic at Parkhead just last month.
Q: What should not get lost in the midst of all the controversy is that Saints had played some great stuff until that killer blow. Agreed?
IR: They had done extremely well and their tactics were working a treat, with the ironic highlight of the game plan being Richard Foster’s marking of spotkick “winner” Kieran Tierney. They can go into the cup clash with Partick Thistle full of confidence despite the 5-2 scoreline.
NR: I agree with Ian and before the hammer blow penalty it had been shaping up as a classic Saints gutsy performance, with boss Tommy Wright once again getting his game plan spot-on. However, I am certain the Perth players will use the deep sense of injustice they feel to spur them on against the Jags.
Q: Dundee had looked on course for what would have been their first-ever win at the Tulloch Caldedonian Stadium but that 2-2 draw was one that got away was it not?
IR: Captain Darren O’Dea said it felt like a defeat and you can’t really argue with that. A win for the Dark Blues would have put clear, blue water between themselves and bottom club Inverness in the form of eight points instead of the current five.
NR: When I saw that Dundee had taken a two-goal lead in the first half against a side toiling at the foot of the table I was fairly sure they would go on to end their long wait for a win in Inverness. The fact they didn’t will be a bitter pill to swallow for the players and manager Paul Hartley but the team have a great opportunity to make amends and break into the top six if they can beat Killie at Dens this Saturday.
Q: At least United got back on track with an ultimately comfortable win against Raith Rovers. Can they kick on when they face Falkirk?
IR: The trip to meet the Bairns is a tough one and they have already lost down there earlier in the season. However, they played some excellent flowing football in the second half and could have beaten Rovers by even more goals in the end. With Falkirk looking good value for their win over Dunfermline last weekend, this has the look of a draw about it.
NR: This is a hugely-important match for both sides. With Hibs in Scottish Cup action, United can cut the gap at the top to just three points with a win, while a Bairns victory would see them move within touching distance of Ray McKinnon’s men. Having covered the last two United games, I have seen enough to believe they are capable of beating Peter Houston’s side, albeit narrowly.
Q: Courier columnist Jim Spence raised the thorny issue of a possible merger between United and Dundee. What is your view?
IR: The achievements of the two Dundee clubs are something of which the country, never mind the city, should be immensely proud. Both teams have won the league title, lifted three Scottish Cups and five League Cups between them, reached the semi-finals of the European Cup and, in United’s case, competed in a UEFA Cup final on their own ground. That legacy is extremely special and should not be discarded because of hard times in the boardroom or on the pitch. The Dundee derby is one of the greatest fixtures in our game and I, for one, think a merger will never happen.
NR: Jim certainly stirred up a hornets’ nest with this column! On paper, a merger makes sense for many reasons but the bottom line is the fans do not want it. This is only February but it has been a long season so far without the Dundee derbies to look forward to. A merger would see them disappear forever which does not bear thinking about.
Q: We have Saints, Dunfermline and East Fife all on William Hill Scottish Cup duty. How do you think they will fare?
IR: I firmly believe all three will still be in the draw after the final whistles blow. Saints will be too strong for the Jags, while the Pars can hold Hamilton to a replay. The result of the day will come across the kingdom when the Fifers beat St Mirren.
NR: I believe Hamilton will be too strong for the Pars but Saints should go marching on and, considering the run East Fife are on, they have a great chance of beating the Buddies.