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Simplicity was key for Dundee United after Firhill fightback – spurred on by gaffer Neilson

Mark Connolly.
Mark Connolly.

The joke at Firhill on Friday after Dundee United came back to win a game that saw them lose the opening goal for the first time since March, was that boss Robbie Neilson’s half-time team talk had been a stroke of genius.

Mark Connolly uses another word to describe it and, if at first it might not seem so, the defender sees it as even higher praise.

“What the gaffer said was simple,” the Irishman reveals.

“He had a talk with us at half-time and he said just pass the ball, do the simple things but just do it quicker.

Mark Connolly.

“That’s what we did and we came back to win.

“I think in the first half we’d tried to force it. We wanted to play and pass it and we started well.

“But then we lost the opening goal and Partick got into quite a compact shape.

“It got a bit too slow and it wasn’t like we were against Inverness but I still don’t think we were playing terribly.

“They were trying to wait for us to make a mistake and catch us on the break.”


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Connolly believes his gaffer’s simple instruction at the interval was a message that didn’t just serve United well in the second half in Glasgow but will in the months ahead.

“We have the players going forward like Lawrence Shankland, and the subs that came on against Thistle were outstanding – if we get the ball to them they will get goals.”

As well as praise the manager, Connolly is quick to highlight his belief the men on the pitch for United are now a group capable of finding a way to win even when not everything is going to plan.

He feels that will be a massive attribute in the battle for automatic promotion this term.

Connolly was full of praise for in-form hitman Shankland.

“The big thing for us is that, while we were not as good as we were in that first game, we still came through and got the win,” said Connolly.

“We worked it out, figured it out and dealt with things. In the second half they had one header from a corner but, other than that, I didn’t think they had loads at our end of the park.

“And I thought that, when we got going again, some of our link-up play and passing was outstanding.”

While he’s on the subject of the strengths of this squad, Connolly believes another big plus is the feeling everyone at Tannadice is pulling in the same direction, adding: “I think you could see the togetherness on the pitch.

“That’s huge. It’s going to be a long season and a tough one. The start we’ve had has not been an easy one but that’s two wins now and it’s good.

“I think we have that real good togetherness, not just the players but the whole staff and everyone can feel that.

“That’s what’s it’s going to take.

“There is a feeling about the place and, in the game the other night, we just felt we were going to get back in and win.

“There will be times when there might be a bad result but then it will be about how we react, pick up and get going again.”


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He is well aware that it’s still very early days and insists no one is getting carried away after only two league wins.

Connolly knows the Championship is a division that will always throw up challenges and has great respect for the other nine sides in it.

That’s why he knew, despite talk of money troubles and team buses being cancelled for away games, Partick were going to be difficult opponents.

“There were things about Partick and their bus or whatever but there was no sign of that on the pitch and that’s the way it will be, teams will not make it easy.”

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