The case for Dundee’s attack lies in a poor defence

Dundee defender Jack Hendry in action against Hamilton at Dens.

As Dundee crashed to the bottom of the Premiership via defeat at the hands of fellow-strugglers Hamilton at the weekend, the perception was they’re where they are because of a failure to convert chances.

Generally speaking, the Dark Blues’ play under Neil McCann hasn’t been that bad but there’s a well-held belief the lack of an end product has led to a failure to accumulate a points tally that reflects the quality of football.

There’s something in that. Barely a game goes by without a Dundee player missing what seems to be the easiest of sitters. There was no clearer example than the close-range effort Sofien Moussa prodded into Tomas Cerny’s grasp at Partick Thistle the other week.

And the goals-for column in the league table shows McCann’s men are only averaging a goal a game in the league — well below what they’d hope for and in no way an indication of the number of good opportunities being created in an average match.

Twelve goals, though, may be low but it’s a tally that does not quite merit being labelled a goals drought and is certainly not the worst scoring record in the league.

Four of the five teams immediately around Dundee have actually mustered a more meagre tally — Accies being the exception — and moving into the top six, although they have suffered a drought in recent games, scoring just one goal more has been enough to get St Johnstone a place in the top six.

All that, of course, begs the obvious question: what then is the problem?

Despite Dundee’s goals-against column being the worst in the league, keeper Scott Bain has received plaudits for his performances this season.

While statistics often don’t tell the whole story, the answer can arguably be found in the very next column to “goals for”. It shows the defence has now been breached on 23 occasions.

If the lack of goals-for doesn’t quite constitute a drought, the number conceded certainly qualifies for classification as a flood.

Of the rest of the top flight, only the Hamilton defence, with one fewer surrendered, comes close to being as leaky as Dundee.

There is an irony in that because while the front men at Dens have come under fire, at times even from the manager, for the number of misses, those at the other end of the park have received praise for their performances.

Keeper Scott Bain is having a fine season so far and has definitely been deserving of the plaudits he’s received. Kerr Waddell and Jack Hendry have looked players with a big future, while skipper Darren O’Dea had led the team admirably.

That leaves summer-signing Josh Meekings and, now he’s recovering from the long-term injury that delayed his debut, he’s lived up to a reputation gained during his Inverness days for being a solid defender.

Kevin Holt has been doing well at left-back or wing-back and, if Cammy Kerr hasn’t hit last season’s form on the right, he’s not been terrible.

Taken as a unit, nothing like the same level of praise has been forthcoming and understandably so.

Any defender worth their salt, however, would at this point be shouting that well-worn phrase “we defend as a team”.

And perhaps the defence would be helped by a tweaking of the forward-thinking tactics the manager likes to adopt. They make for good games to watch but, without question, have seen Dundee become one of the most open outfits in the league.

Whatever the solution, the one thing that’s now crystal clear is they must tighten up at the back, or this season will be another hard slog to avoid relegation.