No one would ever suggest that the Dundee derby is a clash of the titans – it can, however, be ranked as a cult derby football match.  This fixture is not Juventus v Inter Milan or Boca Juniors v River Plate but even that didn’t stop Claudio Canniggia and Fabrizio Ravanelli coming to Dundee to take part in this most enthusiatic of derby matches.

Describing what makes it different is easy – the proximity of the two home stadiums.   Tannadice Park and Dens Park are traditional football stadiums which have changed little over the years.

Sitting only 300 yards apart wedged between Sandeman Street and Dens Road it’s possible for the visiting team’s players to walk to the host stadium on any particular derby day.  From a fan perspective its also common to see a scene that is unfamiliar to most derby matches whether in the UK or abroad. Fans of both teams regularly mingle together socially both before and after the game.

But it is inside the stadium when things start to change. 

Dundee vs Dundee United

Dens Park, Dundee

13th November 2019

Scottish Premiership

While Dundee are the more historic and traditional club it is Dundee United who have been the more successful side since the 1960’s.  Beaten UEFA Cup finalists in 1987 and European Cup Semi Final qualifiers in 1984 the Tannadice side still hold the longest unbeaten run in all matches between the two – 13.

That winning record was established between December 1979 and September 1983; 11 of the 13 games resulting in wins for Dundee United.

Amongst those wins were two of the most high profile – success for Dundee United in the 1980 League Cup Final (ironically held at Dens Park) and a title clinching 2-1 win over Dundee at Dens in May 1983.

However, long before United tasted success in the theatre of European football it was Dundee who were forerunners in continental competition. 

The all conquering Scottish title winning side of 1962 went onto defeat Anderlecht, FC Koln and Sporting Lisbon convincingly before being walloped 5-1 by AC Milan in the San Siro and departing the tournament.

From the heights of these continental and domestic successes have come the lows. This is perhaps a fact not that unusual for a city like Dundee which has went from industrial glory years to the lows of mass unemployment of the 1980’s.   

Dundee is a coastal city and sits on the Firth of Tay estuary in eastern Scotland some 65 miles from the capital city of Edinburgh.  During the Victorian era it was notable for its hard textile industries as well as a range of supporting industries most notably the whaling, maritime and shipbuilding industries.

From the highs came the lows as industry declined. Only later microelectronic works went some way to the alleviate the industrial decline.

Today Dundee is an re-energised city heavily influenced by the appearance of the new Victoria and Albert museum that sits on the Tay waterfront.    It also has 2 nautical museums: the RRS Discovery which was Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship.  The second sits north of the water – the Verdant Works being a museum celebrating the city’s jute fabric manufacturing heritage.

With the Dundee club’s swapping leagues regularly over recent years this game turned out to be Dundee United’s first away win over city rivals Dundee since 2014. The win increased the Tangerines lead in the Scottish Championship to six points ahead of Ayr United.

The first half was no more than a scrappy affair between the two teams. Referee Steven McLean showed a total of five yellow cards and there was not a single shot on target between both sides.

Calum Butcher’s lunging tackle and yellow card in the second minute of this contest undoubtedly set the tone for a match that rarely opted for skill and technique was in short supply.

At a loud and passionate Dens Park both sides lived up to the reputation of this being a robust and fiercely contested derby.

Paul McGowan might have given Dundee a first half lead from Sean Mackie’s cross but he completely mishit the ball and it sailed wide of the goal.

Fortunately, some football did brake out in the second half.

United showed their attacking intent just 10 minutes into the half when Nicky Clark burst through on goal, only for a last-ditch Graham Dorrans tackle to block what appeared a simple finish.

The breakthrough came just moments later.

After darting into the Dundee box, Liam Smith’s attempts to fire the ball towards goal was cut short by a late and clumsy challenge from Declan McDaid. The referee Mclean pointed to the spot and Nicky Clark comfortably tucked the ball into the bottom corner.

Any hope Dundee had of matching their city rivals were quickly extinguished when the unwavering goalscoring form of Shankland struck just eight minutes later. After intercepting the ball from Nelson, the Scotland international then darted towards goal before jinking over an outstretched leg and firing a shot between two Dundee defenders and Conor Hazard into the goal.

Dundee struggled to offer any bite in front of a demanding home support who quickly lost patience with the team as the game progressed. As the end of the game neared it only looked like the visitors were far more likely to extend their lead. A curling effort from Shankland curled and bounced off the Dundee post.

In a derby dominated by late tackles, physical aerial duels and countless fouls it was a clumsy tackle in the box and Shankland’s quality in front of goal that eventually separated these two rivals. The Tangerine fans celebrated long after the final whistle knowing that this season might just be the one that sees them promoted back to the top tier.

Dundee: Hazard, Kerr, Forster, McGhee, Mackie, Byrne, Dorrans, McDaid, McGowan (Johnson), Nelson (McPake), Hemmings

Dundee United: Siegrist, Smith, Watson, Reynolds, Robson, McMullan (Smith), Harkes, Butcher, Appere, Clark (Stanton), Shankland (Connolly)

Referee: Steven McLean

Attendance: 11,233