Dundee United have proved they are a match for a top six Premiership side with yesterday’s 2-2 draw against Hibs, according to manager Robbie Neilson.
The Tangerines twice fought back to set-up a Scottish Cup replay at Easter Road a week on Tuesday but Neilson also has one eye on how his team is building towards their probable return to the top flight.
“I was absolutely delighted with the players,” he said. “Although we’re doing really well in the Championship there’s always that doubt about whether we can compete against a top six team.
“I think today we showed that we can.
“They scored goals early in each half and both times we fought back.
“They had periods of domination and so did we. It was a pretty even game and I thought a draw was probably a fair result.
“I was pleased with our goals.
“We spoke about belief before the game. You can talk about tactics all day but the players have to believe in each other and believe that they’re going to have enough quality to get a result.
“There were doubts – people were saying ‘it’s the Championship’.”
Looking ahead to the replay against Hibs, Neilson said: “I think today will definitely help us in the replay. When we go to Easter Road we need to be at it again.
“Morton is the next focus but we want a cup run and we’ll go to Easter Road with our strongest team.”
Louis Appere was United’s supersub, making it 2-2 just over 10 minutes after coming off the bench.
“I started with McMullan and Pawlett for experience,” said Neilson.
“As the game wore on we knew Louis would be ready to come on. He had dipped a wee bit in the last couple of weeks and we took him out. Hopefully that’s him ready to kick on again.”
Lawrence Shankland’s goal in first half stoppage time was also a moment of quality.
“He’s a good player,” said Neilson. “It wasn’t just his class with the goal it was his link play. He’s so fluid on the ball.
“It was great for him to get his goal.”
Neilson isn’t Shankland’s only admirer, of course.
But he Tannadice boss hasn’t changed his opinion on whether he’ll still be at the club once the transfer window closes.
“I hope so and I think so,” he said.
“I think today’s not going to help us from that side of it.
“I’ve said for a long time that getting promoted is more valuable to us than selling one of our key players.
“I’m expecting him to be here until the end of the season and what happens beyond that will be dependent on what offers come in.”
Hibs manager Jack Ross said: “When you’re ahead twice in the game it’s frustrating. But our performance was good. I’ve spoken about how difficult a tie this would be but I’m frustrated that we did not win the game.
“They are a good attacking team and they took both opportunities. But even the second one was not a clear cut chance, it was just a really good finish. So it’s difficult to be critical of my team other than we didn’t win the match.
“I felt we were dominant today and we can take confidence from our performance especially coming off the back of the break.”