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Dundee 1 Partick Thistle 1: All Wighton the knight as youth rides to the rescue

FROM out of a stramash emerged another staple of Scottish football:

Dundee's Craig Wighton runs in unopposed to score his side's equaliser past Scott Fox. Picture: SNS
Dundee's Craig Wighton runs in unopposed to score his side's equaliser past Scott Fox. Picture: SNS

the Wee Man. This was a role bestowed on Craig Wighton following his introduction at half-time, a player known more commonly around Dens Park as Goanyersel, and whose intervention just 10 minutes later helped his side to maintain an unbeaten start to the SPFL Premiership season. Dundee's top-flight return is only two weeks old, but their teenage striker is maturing nicely.

This was perhaps seen best on the hour mark. It was about all that was clear, the controversy of a penalty award becoming obscured entirely by the fallout from a red card shown moments later to Scott Fox following an altercation with Paul McGowan. The Partick Thistle goalkeeper had been adjudged to have struck his opponent in the face, several more players threw unpleasant remarks at one another, and the Wee Man stood innocently on the edge of the penalty area. As an ugly business was debated a few yards away, Wighton waited patiently for a game to resume.

He would not avoid all of the serious stuff on Saturday; dressed in a club suit and tie, the 17-year-old signed a new contract which is intended to run until the summer of 2017. Paul Hartley, the Dundee manager, would neglect to acknowledge that on Saturday evening, saying only: "Craig is the best player in Scotland, at that age."

Hartley spoke quietly, his words unlikely to drift over the road and into the nursery of prodigious youngsters at Tannadice. It is curious that much of the country's most promising talent has been localised on the same street - the Dundee derby on September 21 could be decided by a game of kerby - and it is not simply the club's postal addresses which are similar. United have been refreshed each season by the controlled introduction of youth players, while Hartley too has worked judiciously on Wighton's progress. The manager had considered loaning out the forward at the start of the season but has resolved instead to rear him within the Dundee first team.

The Dens Park side have played in three competitive matches this season, in which Wighton has featured for 46 minutes. He availed his side with a goal on Saturday -stealing the ball impertinently from the toes of team-mate Jim McAlister but scoring instinctively - and an unfettered confidence.

"He changed the game for us, in terms of the positions he was getting in to and what he was doing on the ball," said James McPake, the Dundee defender. "He will take the ball in any position - he's not afraid. He can do stuff on the ball which only special players can do."

McPake is an alumnus of a Livingston team which once contained Leigh Griffiths, Graham Dorrans and Robert Snodgrass. The defender acknowledged that Wighton has shown the capability to rise to a similar level in his career, but only if his formative years are first anchored in hard work. "It is about knuckling down now," McPake added.

It would prove much easier to loosen Daniel Seaborne's restraint. The Thistle defender had been found guilty of fouling McPake to concede the penalty and ignite the stramash, with the Englishman later maintaining his innocence. His appeals were heard within the North Stand on Saturday evening, albeit his case would sound a little suspect at first.

"I've done that for my whole career, in every league in England," said Seaborne, a player formerly of Southampton, Yeovil Town and Coventry City. "Being stronger than someone isn't a foul and [referee Craig Charleston] has given it for me being stronger than someone. I am bewildered by his decision."

There is a peculiarly Scottish lament which the Partick Thistle defender might have employed instead, had it not seemed a little inappropriate. It begins: in the name of the Wee Man …

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