- Dundee now 16 points clear of their city rivals
- Paul Hartley’s side lose captain James McPake through injury
- Bottom-club United won once in last 12 league games
- Mixu Paatelainen suffers defeat on derby debut at Dens Park
DUNDEE began the New Year with derby day delight at Dens Park as neighbours Dundee United suffered more misery which leaves their Scottish Premiership future in peril.
It started brightly for the bottom-club as Blair Spittal’s stunning free-kick gave them an early lead after Dundee captain James McPake was stretchered off with a dislocated knee cap.
But a fumble from United’s debutant goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima gifted the in-form Kane Hemmings an equaliser soon before the break.
Dundee completed the turnaround when Nick Ross’s shot deflected in off United skipper Sean Dillon and the visitors’ woe was compounded as Guy Demel was shown a second yellow card eight minutes from time.
Head coach Mixu Paatelainen vented his fury towards the officials throughout the second half but his first city derby in charge ended in dismal defeat – leaving United 10 points adrift of second-bottom Kilmarnock, who host Hearts later in the day.
The Tangerines put six past their rivals for the first time 12 months ago but – in the first Premiership fixture of 2016 – they could not add to their two league wins this season as their top-flight status is in serious danger of being relinquished.
Dundee have been the underdogs in the City of Discovery in recent years but Paul Hartley was delighted with his side’s commitment and desire as a second derby win since 2004 propelled them three places into the top six.
The Dark Blues were firm favourites ahead of the 176th meeting with United, who made the 30-yard trip down Tannadice Street seeking revenge after losing a two-goal lead in the final nine minutes to draw 2-2 in August’s reverse clash.
James McPake netted that dramatic 94th minute equaliser but lasted only nine minutes before being stretchered off after appearing to dislocate his right knee when making a challenge on John Rankin as he shaped to shoot.
Following a six-minute delay, the centre-back was replaced by Kostadin Gadzhalov but Dundee suffered a double blow when – from the resulting free-kick – Spittal netted his fourth goal in three derbies with a pinpoint 22-yard effort which beat Scott Bain’s despairing dive.
The impressive Spittal almost manufactured a second goal soon after with a driving run and excellent reverse pass to Billy McKay, who shot straight at Bain before sending another effort over as United had the upper hand for long periods in the first half.
Rankin’s volley was also beaten away by Bain, who made an unconvincing save to prevent a Paul McGinn own goal but replays confirmed Kevin Holt cleared the ball off the line.
Dundee asked questions of United’s new Japanese keeper Kawashima – who made a couple of good saves to deny Hemmings and Gary Harkins but was found wanting as the hosts found a leveller four minutes before the break.
Kawashima had a torrid time from set-pieces as Dundee descended on the six-yard box and a poor punch from Nicky Low’s free-kick allowed Hemmings to volley home spectacularly from six yards.
And for the second successive match, the Tangerines conceded the initiative to their opponents as Dundee came from behind to lead just after the hour.
It wasn’t without fortune as Ross’s 22-yard shot struck Dillon and wrongfooted Kawashima but most of a sold-out Dens Park didn’t care too much.
Paatelainen was given a final warning by referee Kevin Clancy after venting his fury over a free-kick decision in the build-up to the goal, which lifted the hosts.
A dispirited United were kept alive by a vital Kawashima save to parry Paul McGowan’s shot but chances were few and far between in a second half which didn’t match the liveliness of the first.
Not for the first time in the afternoon, Demel lost his composure when barging over Low next to the touchline to leave Clancy with little alternative but to produce a second yellow, despite Paatelainen’s protestations.
United dominated the closing stages and might have had a penalty when McGinn got away with wrestling Dillon to the floor from a corner – but a lack of quality and poor decision making proved costly as Dundee closed out a significant three points to secure the bragging rights.
Substitutes: Gadzhalov (on for McPake 15′), Thomson (on for Harkins 71′) and Irvine (on for Kerr 77′)
Not used: Mitchell (GK), Calder, Skelly, Loy.
Booked: Bain (35′), Ross (45+3′), Konrad (52′), Irvine (90+3′)
Goals: Hemmings (41′), Ross (62′)
Substitutes: Bodul (on for Erskine 67′), Murray (on for Gunning 77′)
Not used: Zwick (GK), Souttar, Telfer, Spark, Donaldson.
Booked: Demel (45+4′), Dixon (47′)
Sent-off: Demel (82′)
Goals: Spittal (15′)
Referee: Kevin Clancy (Scotland) – 8/10