Dundee boss Neil demands more despite a ‘wonderful’ end to 2017

Dundee's Marcus Haber celebrates his goal at St Johnstone with teammates

Victory at St Johnstone was a “wonderful” way to end 2017, says Dundee boss Neil McCann — but that hasn’t stopped him demanding more from his team.

The Dark Blues start 2018 on a high after a deserved victory at McDiarmid Park in the final match before the Premiership stops for its winter break.

Marcus Haber — in for the injured Sofien Moussa — gave his manager a reminder of what he can bring with a well-taken goal inside three minutes after good set-up play from A-Jay Leitch-Smith.

The latter then turned finisher late on, with a superb strike in stoppage time to seal victory.

In between, Saints were reduced to 10 men on 28 minutes as Richie Foster went in high on Paul McGowan.

Despite initially handling the 10 men well in the opening half, Neil was unhappy his team let St Johnstone back into the contest in the second half.

He said: “It’s a brilliant way to end the year to come away to St Johnstone and get our second victory against them.

“I’m really pleased overall but I started after the game by going through the negatives because I wasn’t pleased with how they managed the second half.

“You can see how ingrained it is in them with what we’ve been trying to do with a certain style that they refuse to do certain things.

“I felt on Saturday — because I’m not a football snob — it was on to turn St Johnstone because we invited pressure, especially when we were a man up.

“I did finish with the positives because it was a huge win, especially with how the other results went, so it was vitally important we got the win.

“However, it’s a wonderful way to let the boys turn the engines down for a week and get a much-earned rest.”

A goal for each of his strikers, too, was exactly what the Dens gaffer wants to see.

He added: “As much as I was disappointed with the second half and how we dealt with it, I was really pleased with the first.

“I thought we looked a real threat. We slightly changed our shape a bit, gave Scott Allan a wee role where he could get in between the lines and I thought he was causing problems.

“Big Marcus had a really good finish — it’s difficult for big keepers like that to get ones down low.

“Then when St Johnstone went down to 10 men, I thought we managed it much better in the first half.

“Then St Johnstone changed their shape and caused us some problems in the second half.

“A-Jay’s goal to kill it off was welcomed, it was a super finish and it really just did kill the game off.

“You always want your strikers to hit the back of the net.

“It’s nice for midfielders and defenders but you want your two up top to find the net.”

After seven games in a busy December, Neil is happy to see his players get a well-earned rest.

The Dark Blues squad are getting more than a week off at the start of the break before they are hard at it again preparing for the restart against Inverness in the Scottish Cup on January 20.

Neil said: “When I wasn’t a manager I didn’t think the winter break was that important because our cold weather normally rolls in around February.

“As a manager, now I can see the benefits of it because it’s been such a busy December and I think they do need a rest.

“I’m delighted they are going away on the back of three points.”

Club captain Darren O’Dea missed the game due to illness while Moussa picked up a knock in the previous match against Celtic but is not expected to be out for any length of time.