Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain will play no part in the club’s massive match against Kilmarnock. The Dark Blues’ shot-stopper is the subject of a disciplinary matter at the club and last played for the first team against Hamilton Accies on October 28. He was subsequently on the bench for a development game against Partick Thistle, dropped for Dundee's last Premiership fixture - a 2-1 loss to Hibs at Easter Road - then played 90 minutes for the under-20s against Motherwell. Bain’s omission from Tuesday night’s development match against the Hibees at Oriam seemed to hint that he might be in line for a recall to the senior side for the Premiership crunch clash against Killie at Dens Park on Saturday. However, an emphatic answer from manager Neil McCann put paid to that speculation. Asked if Bain would be available for selection for what is probably bottom-of-the-table Dundee’s biggest game of the season so far, McCann replied: “No.” One man who is likely to feature against the Ayrshire side, even from the bench, is playmaker Scott Allan. Allan, who is on a season-long loan from Celtic, got the full 90 minutes of the development match in Edinburgh and is on the brink of a return to senior action after recovering from groin surgery. McCann confirmed: “Scott is ready for selection. I don’t think he is going to be absolutely 100% but he came through the full (development) game against Hibs. “He is one of many talented players we’ve got and his assists at the start of the season from dead balls and general play were very important to us. So it’s nice to have him back." Midfielder Lewis Spence was using crutches yesterday - McCann said it was done as a precaution - and must be considered a doubt for the Killie match. The manager added: “We are being cautious there because he has gone over on his ankle in training. “We will see how he is tomorrow and hopefully he is not too bad.” Meanwhile, Dens club captain James McPake has taken another major step towards playing again. Out for just under two years since damaging his knee in the 2016 New Year derby win over Dundee United, the 33-year-old has resumed full training. It could still be around the turn of the year before the central defender is fit enough to be considered for first-team action, though. If all goes well, he is expected to start playing at development level in the next few weeks, with Tuesday’s second-string game against Hibs coming too soon for him. McCann added: "James has got no pressure on him whatsoever to come back. "He will come back when he's ready. "It's great for us to see him back on the training ground with his boots. "So often when you've got big injuries you forget what it's like to be a footballer and you don't feel like a footballer anymore. "It becomes a real battle of the mental state. "To get a bit of freedom for him and (to be) back on the training field, where he is close to us and can hear us, it must be great for him and we're delighted for him, but in terms of his comeback, there's no time frame, no pressure. "I said to James the other day in the gym that even though he's back in the gym now, if he wants a couple of days away from here, he takes them, and that is important at this stage of his rehab."
Dundee United have suffered yet another blow with the news that Lewis Toshney has a serious ankle injury. The Tangerines have had more than their fair share of selection woes this season and Toshney is the latest in a long line of casualties. He left Tannadice on crutches after Saturday’s 2-1 win over and was taken to hospital for treatment. Now manager Ray McKinnon will assess the extent of the damage and prepare to be without Toshney for some time. McKinnon, who replaced the right-back with substitute Stewart Murdoch after 29 minutes, said: “I am gutted for him. “He has come down and totally done his ankle. “He is away on crutches to hospital. “He has worked so hard to get back into the team and his attitude has been outstanding. “I thought he was doing great in that first period. He was getting overlaps in the final third and put three or four crosses in. “To pick up another injury is such a shame. “As a team, we are not getting much luck at all with injuries. “It’s another kick for us to deal with.” Also in hospital has been central defender Paul Quinn following a heart scare brought on by a dental problem. He will see a specialist this week and everyone at Tannadice is wishing him a speedy recovery. McKinnon added: “He is seeing a cardiologist so we will just have to wait and see the outcome of that. “It’s not great for him or the club but fingers crossed that he is fine.” Meanwhile, representatives of the Dundee United Supporters’ Foundation are scheduled to meet members of the club board on Thursday.
Dundee United manager Ray McKinnon’s confidence in teenager Scott Allardice is such that he is poised to hand him his debut against Falkirk. The Championship crunch clash between the Tangerines and the Bairns at Tannadice tomorrow will be hugely significant in deciding which club finishes second behind champions-elect Hibs. Falkirk currently occupy the runners-up spot - coveted because it means a later entry to the play-offs - but fourth-placed United can go one point behind them with a game in hand if they can get all three points. The importance of the fixture to United’s season, therefore, can’t be downplayed. Yet McKinnon is prepared to throw Scotland under-19 midfielder Allardice right into the thick of it. That should be taken as a sign of significant confidence in the local lad, who just turned 19 last week. McKinnon said: "I think Scott is ready now and he will have no fears. "He has been outstanding in our under-20s and been away with Scotland under-19s recently. "I have been watching his progress closely, particularly over recent weeks, and he has really improved. “I would say he is right in my thoughts for Saturday. “Scott is a big, tall lad who can run, play and pass. "Indeed, he has a great passing range and is athletic with a bit of drive about him. "He has had two double knee operations but has come back and excelled this season . "Mentally, he is strong and will bring freshness to the side if he plays." McKinnon has challenged his men to recover from the weekend loss at Queen of the South and take maximum points from Falkirk and then Dunfermline in Tuesday's rearranged clash. The United gaffer said: "If we win our next two games we will be pushing for second in the league and that's our message to the players. "We've got four games at home between now and the end of the season and we need to really try and win them all. "We're still right in the thick of it. “It's been a roller-coaster, to be fair, but we're still very positive." Meanwhile, McKinnon has defended his new head of football operations Darren Taylor against accusations of being an “amateur” because of his treatment of Portuguese-based player Ivanildo Cassama. The Guinea-Bissau international’s agent Pedro Lopes was quoted in a Glasgow-based tabloid accusing Taylor of having a “dispute” with Cassama, something flatly denied by United. The Tangerines were also accused of a “lack of professionalism” by Lopes. McKinnon dismissed the allegations as utter nonsense, insisting that they wanted evidence the player had shed the two and a half stones of extra weight he was carrying when he came over for a trial in February before giving him another chance. That proof wasn’t forthcoming so they weren’t interested. McKinnon said: “We were told about a player who was supposed to be from the Portuguese top league so we said to send him over and we would have a look at him. “We did do that then, in a polite manner because it was so unprofessional to send someone over when they were two and a half stones overweight, we then said that if he went home and got himself fit then we might have another look at him. “We then asked for some proof, before he was to fly over, that he was now in tip-top shape or for him not to bother coming. “They said they couldn’t do that. “They couldn’t give us any proof that he wasn’t still overweight - not a photograph, a video or anything. “Now, when you consider today’s technology, it was a concern that they couldn’t do that. “We then told them we weren’t interested because it was a shambles the first time because of the player’s lack of fitness and we didn’t want another shambles on our hands. “That wouldn’t be fair on the player. “The next thing I see that we are being labelled amateurish. “Listen, Darren has done his job properly, done his homework and showed true professionalism here. “It is totally out of order to suggest any differently. “It is a disgrace that we are even talking about this.” On top of McKinnon’s riposte, the club also issued a statement. It read: "In response to a newspaper article today regarding claims made by an agent about the club’s conduct, Dundee United wish to clarify the events reported. “The player, Ivanildo Cassama, was offered to the club by a representative of agent Pedro Lopez (sic) and a trial was agreed several weeks ago. It was clear that the player’s fitness was not remotely close to acceptable. “The representative was invited to make contact before the summer and upon proof of the player’s fitness secure another trial. “Last Saturday, the representative made contact but was unable to provide either video or photographic evidence of the player’s improved fitness. “At this point, head of football operations Darren Taylor advised the representative that Dundee United would not be pursuing their interest in the player. “No contract was offered to the player. No return date was agreed for a further trial. “Darren Taylor has never spoken to or met the agent in the article. “A reporter then contacted the club and asked for a quote about the agent’s claim. The club provided a quote and background information as stated above. “Dundee United is disappointed in both the reporter for producing inaccurate material despite being aware of conflicting accounts and also in the agent who wrongly questioned the professionalism of the club based on incorrect information.”
Dundee frontman A-Jay Leitch-Smith insists Tomas Cerny should not have stayed on the park to save his penalty. Leitch-Smith had already opened the scoring for the dominant Dark Blues when he was fouled by the Jags goalie on 23 minutes. Instead of handing the ball to nominated taker Sofien Moussa, Leitch-Smith took the spotkick himself and looked on in horror as Cerny stuck out a leg to save his shot. That was just one of many golden chances missed by Dundee and they were made to suffer for their poor finishing as Thistle grabbed an injury-time goal through substitute Miles Storey to secure a highly-unlikely 2-1 victory. The decision by referee Euan Anderson to merely book Cerny rather than send him off angered both Dens boss Neil McCann and Leitch-Smith himself. The on-loan Shrewsbury Town player said: "The keeper should have been sent off as I was clean through on goal. "I was expecting him to go off as I had gone round him and all I would have had to do was tap it into an empty net. "So I was expecting a red card. "I knocked it to the side of him and he has brought me to the floor and that is a clear goalscoring opportunity.” Manager McCann agreed, saying: "That's the defining moment (the penalty save). “I saw the Partick Thistle players going over to him at the end because it was the defining moment. "I don't think Cerny makes any attempt to get the ball. “Now the rules are, if you make a genuine attempt to get the ball it's a booking. “There is no attempt there to win the ball - he has cleaned out the player. "Without doubt I am absolutely fizzing inside because it takes me all my control at the side of the pitch not to lose my rag and get sent to the stand. "That's a disgraceful decision. “There is no attempt (to win the ball), I don't care what anyone says. “He should have walked." As for the decision to take it himself rather than hand the ball to Moussa, Leitch-Smith added: "If you win the penalty then you want to take it - don't you? "The manager mentioned that Moussa should have taken it after the game. "I tried to wait for the keeper to move and he left his leg there. "Unfortunately, I missed when I should have scored.”
Scotland fans are, understandably, desperate to see their team qualify for the World Cup after all these years of hurt. It is a source of ongoing frustration that you have to go all the way back to 1998 to find the last time the Tartan Army were able to sample the delights of a major finals. When the Scots opened that tournament against defending champions Brazil at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, we had C’est La Vie from B’Witched at the top of the pop charts and Deirdre not long released from prison in Corrie. Those were gentler, more innocent times now viewed through misty eyes. So when we are given a straw to clutch at it is not surprising that so many supporters are keen to do so. Indeed, France 98 was the last time the amount of teams at the sport’s greatest event was increased, from 24 sides to the current 32. That brings us to Fifa’s latest daft plan – the expansion to 48 teams in 2026. An initial stage of 16 groups of three teams will precede a knockout stage for the remaining 32. While it is easy to gaze into the future and think that Scotland’s self-interest will be served by such an increase given our problems in qualifying, such temptation should be resisted. People should look at the bigger picture. This is the wrong move by a discredited governing body whose motive seems driven more by hard cash than the good of the game. Going from 64 matches to 80 in an era when at any given hour on any given day there seems to be live football on TV is just overkill. Personally, I now ignore the Champions League on TV until it gets to at least the quarter-finals and possibly even the semis. It will be the same with the World Cup, with interest only picking up for the latter stages. Some will say this decision is about being more inclusive and should be applauded for giving lesser nations a shot at glory. However, the World Cup – and the Euros, for that matter - should be about excellence from kick-off on day one. This move will dilute and devalue the competition I have loved since sitting as a wee boy in front of the TV watching Archie Gemmill’s goal in Argentina in 1978 in a World Cup that had only 16 (yes, you read that right) qualifiers. It is just the latest in a long line of decisions from football's top brass that neither make sense nor have the well-being of football at heart.
You get the feeling the match against Kilmarnock represents a fork in the road for Dundee in general and manager Neil McCann in particular. Win it and McCann's belief that his players have been very close to getting it right will have been vindicated. They can kick on with confidence that both style and substance will take them up the Premiership table. While not ideal, a draw would at least bring the five-game losing streak to a welcome end, even though it would not be quite enough to suggest they are in full recovery mode. A defeat, however, will mean the pressure is really on. Killie would be six points clear and second-bottom Partick Thistle would still be two ahead and have a game in hand. Next up would be four extremely challenging fixtures against Rangers (h), Ross County (a), Aberdeen (h) and Hearts (a). So McCann and his players need to stop the rot now. The manager and selective players have been absolutely right to say that some of Dundee’s football this season has been excellent and they have also had several poor decisions go against them at crucial times in important games. What really matters, though, is the points tally and eight from 14 games (a possible 42 points) if they lose to Killie would put McCann in a very vulnerable position. Anyone who doubts that should note that, after 14 matches of their relegation season, city neighbours Dundee United had, you guessed it, just eight points.
Dundee United will be without defender Lewis Toshney for at least three weeks. Toshney injured his ankle during Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Greenock Morton and left Tannadice on crutches. The right-back was taken to hospital for an X-ray and, while the good news is there is no break, damaged ligaments mean he still faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Toshney will definitely miss the games against Dunfermline at East End Park on Saturday, the Irn-Bru Cup home game against Linfield on October 7 and the trip to Livingston on the 14th.
Scott McDonald served notice that Dundee United are back in the “winning groove” ahead of their massive match against Dunfermline. The Tangerines will travel to East End Park for their Championship crunch clash this Saturday full of confidence after an assured attacking display sealed three excellent points at home to Greenock Morton. The final scoreline may have been just 2-1 but United could and should have won by more goals as their forward play finally turned from sluggish to smooth. The home team took the lead on 65 minutes thanks to a splendid goal from James Keatings. The move came up the left-hand side, with four of their forward-thinking men involved as Billy King played the ball to McDonald. The Aussie picked out Paul McMullan and his flick was blasted home by Keatings, despite goalie Derek Gaston getting a touch. However, Morton hit back via a tap-in from substitute Bob McHugh 10 minutes later. With just seven minutes left, however, McDonald smashed the ball home from close range after a Mark Durnan header had hit the post. It was a thoroughly deserved win for United after a patient, composed and even adventurous display produced under a fair bit of pressure, caused by some disappointing recent results. An upbeat McDonald thought it was the ideal way to prepare to play the Pars. He said: “We've got another tough game next weekend against Dunfermline but this victory will help. “It's a good one to take into East End Park. “We had a couple of draws prior to this one so it was good to get back into the winning groove before we play Dunfermline. “We are going down to their place and know it's going to be a hard one. “They are top of the league but if we beat them we could go top. “It's a big clash but we will be ready for it.” McDonald was particularly pleased that there was no anxiety in United’s play after Morton got their equaliser with just 15 minutes to go. “I think the fact that it went to 1-1 and we didn't panic considering the results we've had of late was a good sign,” said the former Motherwell and Celtic man. “It would have been easy to start panicking and the football goes out the window when you start to try and force things. “I thought we were very patient, though, and we got a good victory in the end. “The front players all clicked. “You can see that when the likes of Billy and Paul get on the ball they excite the fans. “So that, in turn, gets the rest of the team going. “I felt there was some really lovely, intricate play between the front four, especially in the first half. “We have been talking about this for weeks but now it was nice to actually put it out there in front of people. “Hopefully, we can build on this. “We've not been performing to the levels we know we can and expect from ourselves but this was a lot better. “It wasn't perfect, although it never is going to be." McDonald was the matchwinner but he revealed he thought he wasn’t going to be needed in the decisive move. “I just thought Mark was going to score,” he said. “The big man should have had a hat-trick of headers so I have been winding him up about that. “Look, I have made a career of reacting like that. “I said earlier in the season that if I can get 20 of those tap-ins I will be happy." United boss Ray McKinnon was delighted with the work his front duo put in and believes they will only get better as the partnership evolves. McKinnon said: “I was hoping for that. “I wanted a really good performance as well as the three points and I thought we got it. “I thought we looked really good midfield to front. “It was nice to have James Keatings and Scott McDonald playing in a two up front for the first time really. “I thought they looked great and you can see a real partnership building there. “James still has a wee bit of fitness yet to come but he worked so hard out there. “Overall, I thought we were good and deserved the victory. “We could have scored some more goals. “I think it helps to have the two strikers in there who can take the ball to feet, link the game and threaten. “They gave options to our midfield and wide players while also being a threat in the box. “When you put all that together it does give you better fluency in the play. “I was disappointed to have lost the goal because we could have been out of sight by that time but, overall, I was pleased. “It was a great response from the players. “Hopefully, we can keep it going into next weekend and I think the players are continuing to grow in confidence.”
In this week’s Talking Football, Courier Sports writers Ian Roache, Eric Nicolson and Neil Robertson discuss the two Dundee clubs' Scottish Cup shockers while heaping praise on East Fife boss Barry Smith. OK, let’s get it out of the way early. Who won the “worst result contest” between Dundee and United at the weekend? IR: Only because of St Mirren’s lowly league position do I tip the balance towards the Dark Blues but both were absolute shockers. EN: Yeah, I would go with the Dundee one. Actually, of all the many grim cup performances the Dark Blues’ fans have had to endure in recent years, this was arguably the worst. St Mirren are a poor, poor team. I don’t suppose the fact that they would have been playing a League One team in the last 16 will have eased the pain. NR: Dundee losing at home to a side seven points adrift at the bottom of the Championship tops United’s Highland hammering. Dundee couldn’t get out of their Betfred Cup group and now this. Besides everyone missing out on the excitement of a cup run, that’s financially irresponsible is it not? IR: You never know how the draws will go as far as possible lucrative ties are concerned but the cups can be a great source of money as well as memories. Sadly, the Dark Blues haven’t done themselves or their fans justice in either tournament this season. EN: It’s a double whammy. As well as missing out on cup revenue, it will also affect league attendances. Unless they get dragged into the relegation battle there is nothing tangible left to play for. NR: Saturday’s result was a bitter pill for everyone of a Dark Blue persuasion to swallow but boss Paul Hartley will be hurting more than most. The manager has long spoken about the importance of the cups to his side and yet another early exit will no doubt impact on budgets. How can you explain what’s happened to United and can they recover from such a heavy defeat in the Highlands? IR: They have become porous at the back again. It may be stating the bleeding obvious but they are losing too many goals. They need to stop the rot or Hibs will quickly become runaway leaders. I would say Dunfermline are arguably favourites for their league clash this weekend. EN: The summer is the time for reflecting on a season but I wonder whether getting to the top of the league was the last thing they needed. All of a sudden fans’ hopes were raised that United could win the title. In reality, Neil Lennon has a much stronger squad than Ray McKinnon. They’ll recover – maybe not as soon as this weekend – the same way as most teams do, and that’s by getting a couple of clean sheets. NR: United have now shipped 12 goals in their last three games which tells its own story. Defensive confidence will have taken a battering and McKinnon has a big job tightening things up at the back. Is it any consolation that Dundee can now concentrate on trying to stay up and United can focus on trying to get up? IR: The cups were never a priority for United but such a hammering can hurt confidence. They are still in the Irn-Bru Cup but that’s a sideshow compared to the league race. A desire to make progress in the cups was a specific goal for the Dens men this season but they never seem too far away from a bad result. That is a concern for the remainder of the campaign. EN: There are no straws to be clutched here, particularly for Dundee. NR: Both sides will desperately miss the excitement a cup run can bring but at least United have a positive promotion target to aim for, although securing Premiership safety should surely focus the minds at Dens. At least St Johnstone got the job done. Partick Thistle at home isn’t the worst draw in the world, is it? IR: Saints have had some daft results this season so such a straightforward home victory over Stenhousemuir was warmly welcomed. The tie against Partick will be close. EN: You want to avoid the Old Firm either home or away. Next priority is not being drawn away to Aberdeen, Hearts or Hibs. After that, anything is OK. Thistle have fared better than most against Saints in the last few years, though. This could definitely be a replay. NR: Saints will be pleased to have secured a home tie but I have already seen Partick winning at McDiarmid this season back in October so this is definitely a tricky assignment. Dunfermline are a club on the up. I would suggest that not only do United need to be wary for Saturday but also Hamilton in the next round of the cup. Agree? IR: I definitely agree. That was a fine win against an Alloa side enjoying a good season and I fancy them against the Accies. As I’ve said above, you can make an argument for them being favourites for the United match. EN: The Pars are improving and I would fancy their chances against Accies. They’ll have to overcome a psychological barrier to take care of United, though. It’s been four out of four for the Tangerines. Beat them and they really will start to think the play-offs are a serious possibility. NR: The bookies have United as favourites to beat the Pars which is slightly surprising especially considering their respective results at the weekend. The Pars were left with a sense of injustice the last time the sides met at East End in the league following Cammy Bell’s penalty save heroics and I can see them edging this latest encounter. We might be biased, considering he is a former DC Thomson colleague, but just how good a job has Barry Smith done at East Fife? IR: So we leave the best to last! His record since swapping the press box for the dugout again has been nothing short of tremendous. The Buddies may have taken care of Dundee but do you really think they will fancy a trip to New Bayview in the next round? I don’t think so. Mon the Fife! EN: Even the manager-of-the-month curse hasn’t stopped Barry. I haven’t checked the betting but they must be a pretty short price to make the play-offs now. Gary Naysmith did an excellent job but that didn’t look on the cards when he left. It’s great to see one of the game’s good guys doing well. NR: I was lucky enough to travel with Barry to most of the away games he covered during his time with the company and his knowledge and passion for the game shone through. It is great to see him being successful in a job he loves.
Coll Donaldson is expected to be in Dundee United squad for Friday’s crunch clash with Hibs after returning home. The central defender has come back to Scotland after spending a week and a half in Poland on trial with Bruk-Bet Termalica Nieciecz. His proposed move to the Ekstraklasa club has collapsed due to Nieciecz wanting him on loan instead of a permanent deal. The Tangerines weren’t interested in that proposal and instead urged Donaldson to come back to Tannadice and fight for a first-team place. It is unclear whether or not the Poles will come back in for him in the summer but in the meantime he will remain part of United boss Ray McKinnon’s plans. That means he will be considered for the showdown clash with the Championship-leading Hibees at Tannadice on Friday. Also expected to be available for selection is Lewis Toshney, who has been sidelined for almost a month with a hamstring injury. Toshney returned to full training at St Andrews yesterday so the signs are positive for him.