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Dundee 1 Hearts 0: Thoughts of drop relegated as Brown continues to instil confidence in Dens Park side

THE fervent celebrations of the Dundee supporters were understandable, given the manner in which their emotions had been wrought during the previous half hour.

Dundee 1 Hearts 0
Dundee 1 Hearts 0

Events elsewhere conspired to condemn their side to relegation twice before the serenity that had settled upon this contest was disturbed by a raucous roar; news had filtered through that Leigh Griffiths, a former Dens Park darling, had scored a late equaliser at Easter Road to deny St Mirren victory. The goal meant that Dundee's lingering tenancy of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League will be prolonged for yet another week but, for those affiliated to the division's bottom side, it was a strike which seemed to carry even greater significance.

Emboldened by their resilience and high on the adrenaline of the occasion, it was possible on Saturday evening to detect a genuine belief among them that a remarkable resurrection is not just possible, but entirely realistic. John Brown's crude comments about the stench of fear emitted by St Mirren evinced that conviction; so, too, did the assessment of defender Brian Easton, who strayed towards the notion that he would rather be in Dundee's position than that of St Mirren. Indeed, of all the qualities Brown has injected into this hitherto hapless squad, that confidence is perhaps the most telling.

It is, however, desperately misguided. St Mirren's draw was celebrated at Dens given the immediate consequences but, in fact, the point earned by the Paisley side is probably the one that confirms their own top-flight status.

Eight points now separate the teams with just three games left, but the insurmountable goal difference advantage held by Danny Lennon's side effectively widens that gap to nine. Indeed, should they avoid defeat against Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday, St Mirren would ensure their safety even before Dundee take the pitch against Aberdeen the following afternoon.

Easton, though, was not prepared to accept that eventuality as a given. "If I was in the St Mirren team I'd be nervous," he insisted. "The longer this goes on, the more nervous they'll become. We have got the momentum and are winning games and they are not."

Such resolve is admirable from a club that, lest we forget, has previous for refusing to roll over and die despite going into administration twice before and being punished with a 25-point deduction which left them on the brink of second division football just a couple of years ago. Yet still it smacks of too little, too late, even if Brown has now steered them to four wins in eight league matches.

The loss of Gary Harkins with a cracked rib is significant, the playmaker now is unlikely to be available for the remainder of the campaign, leaving the energetic but uninspiring John Baird and Carl Finnigan with the responsibility in attack and the inconsistent Jim McAlister and Ryan Conroy tasked with cleaving open defences. On Saturday, they struggled to do so as Dundee were stymied by familiar failings; a lack of quality in midfield and not enough composure in the final third combining to ensure a fraught afternoon despite the dismissal of Andy Webster.

The Hearts defender lasted just half an hour, having been so piqued by the presence of Finnigan that he earned two yellow cards for excessive instances of brutality against the striker. The latter caution was perhaps open to debate, though, the centre-back having been judged to have led with an arm in an aerial joust. "It changed the game," said defender Jamie Hamill.

Regardless, the sending off neutered the visitors, who lacked the impetus of Dundee. That is perhaps understandable, given their season is wending towards a conclusion, but several members of the squad – including Webster and Kevin McHattie and Darren Barr – are out of contract in the summer so are playing to impress manager Gary Locke or, in Barr's case, suitors elsewhere.

The club's recent run of form, eight defeats in 12 matches in all competitions, will not help their cause. However, enhancing that record with a victory over St Mirren on Saturday will, at least, give Dundee further cause to celebrate.

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