TOM DUTHIE: Goal-shy Dundee face mammoth task to stay up

Dundee lost out 2-0 to Aberdeen at Dens Park on Saturday.
Dundee lost out 2-0 to Aberdeen at Dens Park on Saturday.

The size of the task facing Dundee as they bid to secure Premiership survival was summed up, alarmingly, when manager Jim McIntyre admitted they’ll probably need four wins from the five post-split fixtures to reach safety.

Dundee manager Jim McIntyre.

As any long-suffering Dark Blues fan will tell you, that means doubling the total number of league wins so far in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Put another way, despite only trailing second-bottom St Mirren by three points at the foot of the top flight, already it looks like their chances of staying up could be hanging by a thread.

Stranger things have happened and if Dundee do go on the kind of winning run they need, it wouldn’t be the first time a side at the foot of the table has pulled off such a miraculous escape.

Perhaps the one good thing about a split that sees teams face others three times away from home and even have an unequal number of home and away games, is they are only facing those around them in the division.

Accordingly, it means the chances of victory must improve, though for Dundee, whoever they’re facing, getting three points looks a sizeable task.

Saturday’s defeat at home to Aberdeen, after which Jim made his wins-needed prediction, was a seventh straight loss.

Even more worrying is during that run the ‘goals for’ column has been troubled just three times – twice against Hibs and once at St Mirren.

Indeed, that goal after just 24 seconds against the Buddies that promised so much but delivered little, is the only counter in six outings. That potentially fatal lack of goals means it will come as little surprise to learn that during a damaging run stretching back to February, Jim’s team have been shot-shy.

They did manage five efforts on target and two goals against Hibs at Dens but as they went down to St Johnstone, St Mirren, Celtic and Hearts, the opposition goalkeeper was tested on just three occasions over each 90 minutes.

Dundee’s Callum Moore in action with Aberdeen’s Max Lowe.

Against Aberdeen and in the trip to Rangers, just one shot on target was registered.

It goes without saying that, if a great escape is to be registered, considerably more chances will have to be created.

A plus on that score has to be the return to fitness of striker Andrew Nelson.

A run of four goals in five games shortly after his arrival from Sunderland in January raised hopes his new team would climb the table but he was badly missed when injury forced him out for a month following the win at Livingston in mid-February.

The last three games have seen him start once and make two appearances from the bench. The hope must be by the time another trip to St Johnstone is faced on Saturday week, he’ll be match fit.

For the manager, that still leaves the problem of who should partner him in attack. So far various permutations have been tried up front but with little success.

After a burst of seven goals in five games before Christmas, veteran Kenny Miller hasn’t hit the net in his last 18 appearances and, while a good number have been from the bench, that represents a worrying lack of return.

While the workrate of Craig Curran in 13 games since his January switch from just over the road at Dundee United has rightly earned him plaudits from both gaffer and fans, the former Ross County man has still to hit the back of the net.

Curran has never been seen as a prolific scorer and it’s that workrate that brings value to his teams, but like the other strikers, his chipping in with a few goals could be vital.