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Dundee United 2 Inverness CT 1: No surprise as Lawrence Shankland scores crucial winner that moves Tangerines closer to title

United were crowned champions after Dundee's 'yes' vote on Wednesday
Lawrence Shankland is mobbed after making it 2-1 to United.

It was predictable and fitting that a Lawrence Shankland goal – his 28th for the club – should win such a significant match for Dundee United.

Shankland, more than another other player, has helped put the Tangerines on course for a Premiership return at the end of this season.

Promotion is now within sight following this hard-fought victory over the second-placed Championship side Inverness, who now sit 21 points adrift of Robbie Neilson’s men. No more talk about form dips – it’s business as usual.

United had made a bright and inventive start to the match and took a deserved lead on 12 minutes with a well-constructed goal finished off brilliantly by Louis Appere.

However, ICT gradually settled into the game and levelled thanks to a Jordan White header from a corner on 32 minutes.

It was left to Shankland to fire home from the edge of the box on 59 minutes to secure three huge points.

The Tangerines made just the one change to the side that kicked off the goalless draw with Alloa a week earlier.

A fit-again Appere was restored to the line-up at the expense of Ian Harkes, who dropped down to the bench.

Paul McMullan, also recovered from injury, was also named as a sub, while there was a home debut for Rakish Bingham.

United should have taken the lead after only three minutes when captain Calum Butcher headed down into the box and the ball bounced up for Shankland. Inexplicably, the star striker hooked his shot over the bar from just outside the six-yard box.

The delivery from the wide areas, which had been a problem at Alloa, was looking better and a Liam Smith cross from the right just missed the head of Peter Pawlett.

The Tangerines had started really well and took a deserved lead on 12 minutes.

It was a fine move that involved Appere, Shankland, Bingham and Appere again, with the Tannadice academy graduate finishing superbly to place the ball inside the ICT post from the edge of the box.

It was all United now and they came close through a Mark Connolly header before James Keatings – at the heart of a national disciplinary rumpus – had the first Inverness attempt with a 25-yard shot that didn’t trouble home goalie Benjamin Siegrist.

There was one of the loudest cheers of the night for Shankland on 24 minutes when he sprinted back to defend an ICT breakaway and succeeded in winning the ball back.

The weather was dreadful and, with 32 minutes on the clock, it was the Highlanders who were singing in the rain as they equalised.

It was a poor goal to lose from United’s perspective as Keatings’ corner from the right was nodded in by White, who edged in front of Connolly to leave Siegrist helpless.

White came close again as the Tangerines began to rock a bit at the back.

Connolly and Paul Watson went for the same ball and that left an opening for White to shoot but his effort was deflected.

The hosts had an opportunity just before half-time when Butcher’s flick off Pawlett’s corner had to be saved low down by ICT keeper Mark Ridgers.

It was a half that at one point looked likely to be totally dominated by United but they gave ICT room at a setpiece and paid the price.

United almost paid for more slackness on 50 minutes when they left Tom Walsh unmarked and the Caley man stung Siegrist’s hands with an angled drive.

The home team had a penalty appeal ignored by ref Beaton after Jamie Robson appeared to be bundled over inside the box on 52 minutes.

United defender Watson was booked for chopping down James Vincent just outside the home box seconds later but the freekick, taken by Keatings, came to nothing.

Both sides made changes on the 58-minute mark, with United bringing on McMullan and Harkes for Pawlett and Dillon Powers.

What United required was a moment of magic and it was provided by – yes, you guessed it – Shankland just a minute later.

He took the ball from Bingham outside the Inverness box, danced around three defenders then let fly with a low, right-foot shot that nestled into Ridgers’ bottom right-hand corner.

The Tangerines looked to be back on song again and Appere had a decent chance on 61 minutes but curled the ball wide of the far post.

The home team were still pressing for a third and Bingham cut the ball back for Harkes to shoot on 70 minutes but his netbound strike was deflected away for a corner.

United had to stay strong at the back now and a vital victory would be theirs.

Former Tannadice man Keatings had another shot blocked but Caley seemed to have had the stuffing knocked out of them by Shankland’s goal.

The Tangerines brought on central defender Mark Reynolds for Bingham with a couple of minutes remaining to help shut the door on the visitors.

ICT kept going to the final whistle and a Shaun Rooney header flew wide and a Carl Tremarco shot hit the side-netting.

Attendance: 7,583.

Dundee United: Siegrist, Smith, Powers (Harkes 58), Connolly, Pawlett (McMullan 59), Bingham (Reynolds 88), Robson, Butcher, Shankland, Appere, Watson. Subs not used: Deniz, Sporle, Glass, Mochrie.

Inverness: Ridgers, Rooney, Tremarco, Keatings, Carson (Trafford 58), White, Walsh (Todorov 87), McHattie, Vincent, Storey (Doran 66), McKay. Subs not used: Mackay, Toshney, Harper, MacGregor.

Referee: John Beaton.