WITH around ten minutes to go until kick-off, the Dundee players jogged towards their corner of the main stand and saluted the home support. 

But just as the last blue shirt disappeared down the tunnel, the Dee fans spotted one man yet to make his way across the Dens Park pitch. Cheers broke out. Some whistled. Others chanted his name. 

Whether by choice or not it was Leigh Griffiths who had earned the solo serenade. For all his faults it was clear the blue half of the city had decided to put these to one side and welcome him back. 

They’ll hope he’ll pay back their generosity with goals and there was enough yesterday to suggest he will do just that, albeit the longer the contest wore on the more he looked like a player who hadn’t played since May. That said he could have ended the day the hero were it not for the impressive reflexes of Max Stryjek. 

 

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But Griffiths and Dundee had to settle for a point in what was, ultimately, a bitty, mostly forgettable affair which owed so much to how Livingston contained their hosts. 

“I’ve known Leigh all my life,” said Dundee manager James McPake. “He’ll always carry a threat. I’m delighted he got through the 90 minutes.

“That will have done him the world of good. He’s got a wee bit to go in terms of sharpness but we’ll work on that this week.

"I thought we created some clear-cut chances in the first-half and their their keeper makes a good save from Leigh after the break.

“But at this level, the players now realise if you create those kind of chances you have to take at least one of them." 

While all eyes were on Griffiths - one of four changes for the hosts and in the place of Jason Cummings - it was left to his new team-mates to inject excitement into a contest which, in its opening stages, was being dragged into trench warfare by Livingston. From the first minute the winless guests were deploying the dark arts to eat away the seconds, seemingly happy to take their first point of the season and get out of dodge. 

But occasionally a flurry of excitement broke out. Alex Jakubiak flicked the ball over his marker’s head and darted off down the left. Max Anderson looked assured in possession and was making his way into pockets of space. Griffiths saw his first Dundee shot in a decade blocked to safety to a ripple of applause. 

It was Anderson, however, who nearly broke the deadlock when he forced Stryjek into a flying save to his right. It was the Pole’s first of many. Picking the ball up in the middle of the park, Anderson drove towards a retreating Livi backline, played a neat one-two with Jakubiak, and suddenly found himself inside the guests’ box only to be denied. 

Stryjek was having a busy day and before the break he’d be called upon to stop Cammy Kerr, Jordan McGhee, and, most impressively, Ryan Sweeney, clawing the latter’s header onto the crossbar when the ball looked destined for the net. 

But, in truth, it was mostly a half to forget with Livingston spending most of it punting the ball towards Bruce Anderson and looking surprised when he failed to wrestle it away from the two relative behemoths marking him. At least that was until they showed some flickers of life in its dying embers. 

HeraldScotland: Max Stryjek impressed Max Stryjek impressed

With the ball on the deck and Alan Forrest finally given the chance to stretch his legs, the Dee defence was forced to retreat towards Adam Legzdins goal and he had to sharply deny the little winger from distance and later Andrew Shinnie at close range.  

HeraldScotland: David Martindale's team defender stubbornly David Martindale's team defender stubbornly

Still, the script had surely already been written for this one: Griffiths was bound to be the hero, right? By the time his moment looked to have come, murmurs of discontent were growing louder as Dundee’s play became increasingly fraught. Step forward Griffiths. 

Twisting and turning, he sent the ball towards Stryjek’s goal, only for the effort to take a nick off a defender, spin devilishly and give Stryjek the time he needed to push it clear. 

That got the Dundee crowd going again but the Lions soon put paid to their enthusiasm by killing the home side’s momentum in fine style. Chalk this one up as a point gained for both teams and all agree to never speak of it again. 

“It was blood and guts, both sets of players were getting stuck in for it,” said David Martindale, who was dealt an early blow when Craig Sibbald was stretchered off. “I keep talking about Sibbs for the wrong reasons. I feel rotten for him.

“I thought their movement was quite good and they will cause teams problems with the strikers they have."