Dundee 3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2
At McDiarmid Park, Perth22/11/2009
Dundee stormed from behind to win the Alba Challenge Cup in the most dramatic and unlikely fashion at McDiarmid Park. After a nightmare first half when the dismayed dark blues support were relieved to see their side go in only 2-0 down, they came storming out after half time to take charge of the game and deservedly win.
Inverness were in control right from the kick off and should have scored after four minutes when Hayes skipped past Malone, drove the ball across goal and Foran arriving from the left shot into the side netting. This set the tone for the first half with Hayes playing havoc with the Dundee left.
Caley Thistle came even closer after quarter of an hour when Hayes raced to the byline and cut the ball back for Sanchez to hammer his shot off the face of the bar. The highlanders’ got the goal they deserved three minutes later when Hayes jinked inside Malone and flighted a neat cross to the near post where ROONEY headed firmly wide of Douglas’s left hand.
It was nearly two when Foran forced the ball into the net following a scramble after a corner, but the referee, Mr Richmond, had already blown for a foul on Rab Douglas. Dundee were having great trouble handling Caley Thistle’s aerial strength at set pieces, and it was no surprise when the second goal arrived from this source after 32 minutes. Douglas couldn’t get to the corner as it flashed across the crowded six yard box. When the ball was knocked back into the goalmouth Bulvitis reacted quickest to turn and knock the ball into the net.
Dundee were second best all over the park at this point. The midfield wasn’t in the game, the strikers were getting dreadful service, and the defence were struggling to hold the eager Caley Thistle forwards. It should have been three, and game over, just before half time when Sanchez pounced on a MacKenzie mistake to send Rooney through, but Douglas saved well.
When the half time whistle went the Caley Thistle players were cheered off, whilst the Dundee fans sat in stunned silence punctuated by a few boos. Dundee had threatened Caley Thistle once briefly, in the whole of the first half, when a Higgins header was deflected just wide before Caley Thistle had scored, but the rest of the half had seen a procession of white shirts streaming towards the Dundee goal.
The mood of the Dundee support couldn’t have been bleaker during the half time post mortem. “Rubbish”, was as kind as it got!
The second half started in the same vein as the first when Hayes launched a raid down the right, which ended with a harmless cross. And that was the end of his effective involvement in the match, as Dundee completely shackled him and took total control. After 48 minutes Gary Harkins moved infield, picked up the ball and found Richie Hart in space on the right. Hart’s fierce cross was contested by Higgins and BULVITIS eight yards out, and under pressure the defender headed powerfully past his own keeper.
Dundee were transformed. The match had turned on its head, and the roof fell in on Caley Thistle. Dundee made a horrible mess of a free kick on 53 minutes, but Caley Thistle failed to clear. Eric Paton fed the ball through to Craig Forsyth wide on the right and Fozzy drove the ball low into the goalmouth where Esson palmed the ball out leaving Gary HARKINS with the simplest of chances, and unbelievably Dundee were back on level terms!
The Dundee players were now moving faster, passing more sharply, and crunching into their tackles as the Dark Blues roared forward looking for the winner, cheered on by a large and frantic support. Leigh Griffiths was outstanding, showing great skill, beating men in the tightest spaces, and terrifying the defenders with his pace.
He should have scored after 70 minutes when he was sent through, but Esson knocked the ball away as he tried to dribble round the keeper, and Forsyth’s follow up shot was just over the bar.
Dundee lost Paton and Higgins through injury, with Benedictus and McMenamin stepping in, but neither change disrupted the Dee’s dominance.
At last Dundee got the goal they’d been threatening after 83 minutes when Harkins danced past a succession of tackles to the byline and cut the ball back for Craig FORSYTH to slam the ball into the net from 10 yards, sending the packed Dees support behind the goal into a frenzy.
There were four minutes of injury time, but Dundee were in charge and saw out the match comfortably. Leigh Griffiths was substituted to a standing ovation as the match went into injury time, with Patrick Clarke replacing him. Clarke was quickly involved, winning the ball with a fine tackle deep in his own half and leading the charge out of defence. As he was about to send the unmarked Colin McMenamin clear from the half-way line Dougie Imrie hacked him down from behind to earn a straight red card and end Caley Thistle’s chances.
When the final whistle went three quarters of the ground erupted, and the singing and scarf waving was still going on as I left the ground 20 minutes later – and that was the players! Just the Challenge Cup? It might not be the biggest tournament, but ask any of the players or supporters how good it felt on the day!
19 years ago Stewart Forsyth won a winner’s medal when this tournament was first played. His son can say, “aye Dad, but you never scored the winner!”. Thank you Fozzy!
Alba Man of the Match - Jim Lauchlan Dundee
Paton (Benedictus 73), MacKenzie, Lauchlan, Malone
Harkins, Kerr, Hart, Forsyth
Higgins (McMenamin 65), Griffiths (Clarke 90)
Subs Not Used: Cameron, Soutar.
Booked: Lauchlan (handling), Kerr (handling), Clarke (retaliation)
Goals: Bulvitis 48 og, Harkins 53, Forsyth 83 Inverness
Tokely, Bulvitis, Munro, Golabek,
Proctor, Duncan (Imrie 89)
Hayes, Sanchez (Cox 57), Foran
Rooney (Odhiambo 89)
Subs Not Used: Stratford, Allison.
Sent Off: Imrie (90 trip on Clarke). Booked: Bulvitis (tripping Harkins), Hayes (tripping Malone)
Goals: Rooney 19, Bulvitis 32.
Report - James Christie
Photographs of fans, action and celebrations from the ALBA Cup Final can be found on our flickr