Dundee belated came out of coronavirus hibernation this weekend with a hard-fought 2-0 victory at Highland League champions Brora Rangers – their first competitive match since March.
After last week’s late call-off of their first Betfred Cup group stage clash against Forfar, the Dark Blues had to wait an extra few days to get back into action.
But they wasted little time in getting among the goals once more with two early strikes from the impressive Graham Dorrans and then debutant Danny Mullen doing the damage at Dudgeon Park.
In doing so, James McPake’s side increased an unbeaten run that extends all the way back to late January while they haven’t conceded a goal now since the 26th minute of a 1-1 draw at Morton on February 1.
Including the 3-0 walkover against the Loons last week, that’s eight matches without defeat and seven without letting in a goal.
This Dark Blues side coming out of the lower-league shutdown, however, have a different look about them.
Gone are Kane Hemmings, Andrew Nelson, Josh Meekings and Jamie Ness.
Making their debuts in the Highlands were the summer’s stellar signing Charlie Adam, new striker Mullen and centre-half Lee Ashcroft.
Youngster Max Anderson was rewarded for some fine performances in pre-season with his first senior start while former Dundee United striker Osman Sow also made his bow from the bench.
Adam, though, is the one the enterprising bunch of fans gathered on a hill outside the stadium came to see.
And the former Scotland man showed his class early on, playing a part in the opening goal and seeing a free-kick tipped behind before heading over, all within the first 20 minutes.
The home side had caused a few worrying moments at the back for the Dark Blues with diminutive attacker Andrew Macrae a tricky customer.
However, the goal on 10 minutes calmed the Championship side down and a well-worked one it was too.
Adam pinged a ball out left to the returning Jordan Marshall with the wing-back working space to cross low to Mullen. The frontman then showed good awareness to lay off for Dorrans to strike into the net, via a Brora defender.
Adam may be the draw for viewers these days but it was Dorrans once again who impressed most. The former Rangers and West Brom man has looked in great shape since pre-season restarted and continued that form with an excellent showing in the middle of the park.
And he says the enforced break brought about by the coronavirus pandemic may have been a blessing in disguise ahead of his second season with the Dark Blues.
He said: “Lockdown gave me time to get my fitness up to probably the highest it has been in the last three or four years.
“I’d been a long time without a proper pre-season, but the last six months were the longest pre-season I’ve ever had!
“It was good. I came back feeling really good and because we’d worked so hard over the break it was straight into football.
“The boys are looking good so, hopefully, we can take that into the start of the season in the league.
“Personally, it was a good thing I could go and work on my fitness.
“I’d had six or seven months back playing games after being injured, so I was back to fitness.
“But a good season always needs a pre-season and then you reap the benefits of it come Christmas time.
“The boys all worked hard over the break and we’ll be ready to go – as fit as I’ve seen us as a squad.”
The clash in Brora was Dundee’s first in 216 days and, though they were heavy favourites against their Highland opponents, Dorrans was under no illusions how difficult a test it would be.
“It’s good to get back playing competitively at last,” he added.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game but it was all about getting the points in the cup and we’ve done that.
“It was the kind of game you never really get any plaudits from – we were expected to come here and win.
“We knew it was going to be tough. In their league, they’re used to winning games and they made it difficult for us, but it is job done and we can concentrate on next weekend against Hearts in the league.
“We couldn’t show any complacency. We watched some of their clips of what they did against Hibs last Wednesday.
“They were 2-0 down but got the goal and got back into the game.
“They have some very decent footballers. We knew we had to approach it right and it is always nice to get the early goal because these games are always tricky.
“It was a deflection, but I’ll take it!”
It was 2-0 before the half-hour mark with young Anderson showing why he got the nod in the middle of the park alongside internationals Dorrans and Adam in the 3-5-2 set-up.
He twisted and turned on the right side of the Brora area before sending in a low cross to be turned home by Mullen for a debut strike for the former St Mirren man.
That put the Dens Park side in control on the scoreline but, like they did at Easter Road last week, Brora never gave up and tested Dee goalie Jack Hamilton a number of times.
Shortly before half-time, Hamilton had to be at his best to deny Greg Morrison as the winger ran in behind the Dundee defence and made some decent stops in the second half from long-range efforts as he earned his clean sheet.
Dundee could also have added to their tally with Anderson, in particular, denied by a great save by Brora No 1 Joe Malin when through on goal.
Dorrans, too, was denied on a couple of occasions by the former Ross County goalie but the midfielder had to content himself with a 2-0 victory going into the league opener this week away to recently-relegated Hearts.
He added: “We were a little bit disappointed with the game being off during the week (v Forfar).
“We knew it could have been a difficult one as well.
“It would have been nice to get a couple of wins going into the Hearts game, but it is just what is happening in the world.
“We’ve come up here, put in a professional performance and it sets us in good stead for Friday coming.”