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Verdict: Home sweet home for Dundee United as they stretch lead at top of Championship

Nicky Clark (left) celebrates his freekick goal with teammate Peter Pawlett.
Nicky Clark (left) celebrates his freekick goal with teammate Peter Pawlett.

There was no place like home for Dundee United as they moved three points clear at the top of the Championship.

After two dreadful away results, the Tangerines looked much more like their old selves as they beat Dunfermline 2-0 at Tannadice.

First-half goals from Lawrence Shankland – his 16th for United this season – and former Dunfermline man Nicky Clark sent United on the way to their fifth consecutive home league win of the campaign.

The Pars had their fair share of the ball after the interval but couldn’t break through a United defence that looked considerably more resolute that it had done on the road at Alloa and Queen of the South.

The Tangerines, unsurprisingly, made three changes to the team that crashed 4-0 at Palmerston the previous weekend.

Into the side came Jamie Robson, Peter Pawlett and Clark, with Paul Watson, Sam Stanton and Louis Appere.

Dunfermline, skippered by ex-United captain Paul Paton, brought in Andy Ryan for Kevin Nisbet.

The hosts just had to improve on their Dumfries disaster and they were ahead after just nine minutes.

It was Shankland who was the scorer, the familiar sight of the number 24 ghosting in to prod the ball past Pars keeper Cammy Gill from six yards.

Smith’s cross had caused havoc and reached former East End Park player Clark, who played the ball to Shankland.

It was his 14th league goal and 16th overall for the club – a remarkable return.

Just two minutes later, the visitors came close to levelling when United number one Benjamin Siegrist had to tip a header from Ryan over the bar.

Dunfermline had another chance when Kyle Turner scooped the ball over after a Ryan Dow cutback but they found themselves two down on 27 minutes.

There was a heavy challenge on United midfielder Ian Harkes inches from the right-hand edge of the Pars box.

With Shankland and others in the goalmouth waiting for a cross, Clark stepped up and smashed a shot inside the near post of bemused goalie Gill.

United almost grabbed a third two minutes before the break when McMullan was just a toe away from converting Liam Smith’s low cross from the right.

The Pars made a change at the break, bringing on Danny Devine for Lewis Martin.

The first threat of the second half came from the hosts, with Butcher firing a volley just over from 20 yards.

Ryan then had a go for the Fifers on 50 minutes but his shot was held comfortably by Siegrist.

There was a worry for United on 54 minutes when Robson, who had just returned from injury, needed treatment but he played on.

Smith pulled a shot wide for the Tangerines then Siegrist saved United when ex-Tannadice man burst into space inside the box only for the Swiss keeper to make a terrific block.

The Pars were enjoying a decent spell as the game reached the hour mark and they brought on frontman Nisbet for Harry Cochrane.

United’s Clark had a strike blocked at close-range on 62 minutes before Turner volleyed over for the East End Park men at the other end.

The Tangerines switched Pawlett with sub Appere  but the next big chance fell to the visitors on 75 minutes, with Nisbet playing the ball short to Ryan, who clipped an excellent shot off the crossbar with Siegrist beaten.

Adam King came on for Clark with 12 minutes to go just before Harkes let fly with a strike that cleared the bar by a couple of feet.

United managed to see the game out and, hopefully, forget all about their away -day blues.

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