IT may be celebration time throughout the country tomorrow night, but the only bells being brought in at Dens Park this Hogmanay will be those of the alarm variety.
With Dundee marking the start of 2012 with an unbeaten league run that carried them into March, the Tayside club will bow out of an extraordinary 12 months fearful of what the next five may bring.
Yesterday's 3-1 defeat at home to a rampant Aberdeen – and an unplayable hat-trick hero in the shape of Niall McGinn – signified their fifth defeat in their last six games in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, leaving them nine points adrift at the foot of the table. Barry Smith's men may have been an unexpected arrival at the SPL party – due to Rangers being refused membership in the summer – but the top-table gatecrashers are already showing signs that their unexpected rise from the first division may be short-lived and the Dundee manager could only be frank in his assessment.
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"That's as poor as we've been all season and I'll hold my hands up and say I got it wrong," he said. "It was my decision to pick the team I did, but with hindsight I should have changed it. They looked tired. The confidence is dented, but the spirit will remain as long as we're still able to catch the team above us."
To put yesterday's result down to Dundee's lacklustre showing would be doing the visitors an injustice. Aberdeen, recovering from a 4-1 Boxing Day defeat to Motherwell, were everything their hosts weren't as the frontmen of McGinn, Cammy Smith and Johnny Hayes failed to let Dundee find any sort of rhythm after an initial bright start.
But it was the play of the 25-year-old Northern Irishman McGinn in particular that will still be giving the Dundee defence the shivers this morning. The ex-Celtic winger is now on 14 goals for the season, with the Aberdeen manager Craig Brown full of praise for his makeshift striker. "I was determined to play him as a striker," said Brown, who revealed Andrew Considine could be out with a suspected tibia break after a freak first-half challenge. "I hear Arsene Wenger is talking about playing Theo Walcott as a striker, perhaps he's been watching Niall and has been given a lesson in how to turn a winger into a striker."
After an initial flurry from Dundee – Kevin McBride missed a clear chance in the first 30 seconds – Aberdeen showed their ruthless streak that had deserted them in Lanarkshire on Tuesday.
Yet it took 52 seconds into the second period for the Pittodrie side to take the lead. The visitors worked a short corner to Cammy Smith, whose inswinging cross to the near post caught the Dundee defence sleeping, allowing McGinn to prod the ball beyond Douglas before continuing his run through a ruck of inflatable sheep towards the raucous travelling support.
By this point Aberdeen were motoring. Hayes raced down the left to fire an awkward cross at Scott Vernon, who almost guided it home, while Jo Shaughnessy stung the fingers of veteran shotstopper Douglas with a rasper from range. There were also shouts for a penalty as the young Aberdeen right-back appeared to be hauled down by Kyle Benedictus. It didn't matter, as McGinn and Aberdeen doubled their tally on 70 minutes, this time the Northern Irishman nodding home a deep cross from Hayes.
Despite substitute Mark Stewart scoring on 82 minutes with his first touch to give Dundee some hope, McGinn killed the game with a minute left. Hayes collected the ball on the edge of the area before sending a fierce shot at Douglas. The keeper could only parry high into the air with the 25-year-old throwing himself at the ball on the line to bundle it over.