IT’S worrying times up at Dundee United after a poor run of results have seen the Tannadice side once again slip to the foot of the table.
Things looked a little better for head coach Liam Fox’s side after they enjoyed a purple patch, picking up seven points from nine in a week. Firstly, United saw off Jim Goodwin’s Aberdeen in empathic fashion winning 4-0 at Tannadice and recording their first league victory this season into the bargain. Goals from Tony Watt, Aziz Behich and Jamie McGrath put the Tangerines well in control before a late Aberdeen own goal sealed the deal.
A midweek fixture with Hibs followed shortly after with United emerging 1-0 victors, with an early goal from Australian wing-back Behich, who was once again on target. Hibs left Tannadice feeling aggrieved, having dominated possession throughout the game and also having a perfectly good goal disallowed in the first half. Stats also showed that United had one shot on target in 90 minutes, which proved to be the winner.
If anything, the Tangerines had definitely used up a large slice of luck, but it did provide a sense of hope going up to Dingwall for the basement battle with Ross County. The game ended 1-1 with United coming back from a goal down for the first time this season to claim any sort of reward. Watt, once again was the man on the scoresheet.
Fox has been trying an ambitious 3-4-3 formation using only one centre-half in skipper Ryan Edwards, allowing attacking full-backs Liam Smith and Scott McMann to get up the field along with Behich and young Kieran Freeman. This seemed to be working a treat, but was badly exposed at Kilmarnock in the League Cup, where a late goal for the hosts saw United exit the competition after Watt had pulled one back to keep the tie alive. Kilmarnock, nonetheless, were the better side on the night will now face Celtic in the semi-final at Hampden next month.
Since that League Cup game, however, things have gone on a downward spiral with a league defeat to St Mirren—with a late goal being the difference between the sides—and another home defeat at the hands of Motherwell by a single goal. In this one, a red card was issued to Watt who was dismissed before half-time for a high tackle deemed red by a second look at VAR. Even though United were reduced to ten men they put up a good fight and were arguably the better side in the second half a fact Motherwell manager Stevie Hammell commented on when he said his side were relieved to get over the line after a nervy finish.
Indeed, the best chance of the second period fell to Ian Harkes, who was on the end of a great flowing United move. He was however thwarted but Well keeper Liam Kelly who produced an excellent save to keep out the American midfielder. United striker Steven Fletcher had earlier produced an incredible bicycle kick which just flashed past the post but United offered little else in front of goal to be fair.
“It’s difficult to a take any positives from defeat,” manager Fox was quoted as saying after the final whistle, but the attitude of players like Craig Sibbald in midfield providing that bit of fire and steel has to be one at least. There is no doubt United will this type of graft and guile going forward if they want to stay up.
A problematic area for United this season has been between the sticks with Finn Carljohan Eriksson playing the last few games in the absence of Aussie stopper Mark Birighitti who was reinstated for the Motherwell game. Unfortunately though, neither have looked stable or commanding enough and while the erratic nature of the position is expected and accepted, there have simply been too many crucial mistakes to date costing United vital points.