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Dundee United have to settle for 0-0 draw as they edge another point closer to the title

Peter Pawlett in action.
Peter Pawlett in action.

You can’t manufacture jeopardy.

We all know it is a matter of when, not if Dundee United will be crowned title winners.

Any talk of the Tangerines ‘doing a Leeds’ is fanciful. The Scottish Championship is comparable to the English Championship in name only.

It has long since become apparent that there isn’t another side in this division capable of putting a sustained run of results together that would create anything approaching genuine pressure for Robbie Neilson’s men.

So mini form dips like United’s draw and a defeat going into this fixture are a promotion sub-plot rather than a narrative of enduring significance.

You can now make that a sub-plot of two draws and a defeat.

This was the sort of game United fans will be glad to see the back of.

Alloa have been on a decent run of late and made it a scrappy contest. The Tannadice side were better than their opponents but it certainly wasn’t a memorable watch. No goals and not many clear-cut chances summed it up.

Neilson has consistently stressed the importance of the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is a lead at the top that is now 18.

The most eye-catching team news for United was a debut for recent signing Rakish Bingham and Paul Watson’s return to the starting line-up. Louis Appere was originally listed as a substitute but got injured in the warm-up and dropped out.

For Alloa, there was no sign of Scott Banks either in the eleven or on the bench.

Bingham’s first touch as a United player was a lovely one – a skilful cushioned flick off his ankle for Lawrence Shankland to chase. His strike-partner couldn’t get away from his marker but it was encouraging to see the pair link-up well from the off.

This attack set the pattern of play for the early stages and the visitors had the look of a team that didn’t enjoy spending a fortnight reflecting on a rare league defeat.

For all United’s territorial dominance, it was Alloa who had the first shot on target. Kevin Cawley struck his 20-yarder well but it went straight at Benjamin Siegrist.

The Tangerines’ were next to threaten when Peter Pawlett picked out Shankland with a floated free-kick to the back post on 16 minutes. He couldn’t find the target, however.

Ian Harkes was playing wide right in a midfield four and his run beyond the Alloa left-back, Liam Dick was spotted by Jamie Robson, whose long diagonal ball was perfectly judged. So too was Harkes’ touch on his chest but the American saw his delivery across the face of goal cut out at the near post.

On the opposite side of the pitch, Pawlett turned over possession in the middle of the park and had space in front of him to charge forward unchallenged. When the time came to shot he scuffed his left foot effort.

Chances were starting to come more frequently for United now, albeit from a distance Alloa would be reasonably comfortable with. Calum Butcher was the next to try his luck from just outside the box and he narrowly missed the target from just outside the box.

Watson committed a foul in a very dangerous area on 40 minutes. At the edge of the D, Iain Flannigan had the choice of going for the left or right top corner but all he found was the centre of the wall.

There was a theme of testing Alloa keeper Kieran Wright whenever the chance arose developing straight after the half-time interval. Twice United players shot from about 20 yards out but on both occasions the goalie was equal to the task.

Pawlett was doing precious little from open play but one of his corners on 62 minutes found Mark Connolly, whose powerful header went just over.

A minute later Alloa came even closer from a corner of their own, with Ben Stirling’s header forcing a brilliant low save out of Siegrist.

On 66 minutes Shankland looked like he might get a very rare sight of goal but the assistant referee’s flag went up for offside before he got the chance to do his thing.

Neilson waited until 78 minutes to make a change – Adrian Sporle for Harkes. The substitute didn’t exactly make his manager regret taking that long as his first contribution was an over hit cross from a promising position.

United were the team pushing hardest for an equaliser and when the ball dropped nicely for Shankland in stoppage time it was a shock that he didn’t get his timing right and skied his shot over.

 

Attendance – 1,442

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