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Dundee United’s need for another front man is crystal clear

Dundee United’s need for another front man is crystal clear

Saturday’s unbeaten-run-ending defeat for Dundee United at Dumbarton served to highlight further why manager Ray McKinnon is so determined to add another striker to his squad.

The January transfer window is a notoriously-difficult time to get quality, unless you have a barrow-load of cash, and, given the specific type the Tangerines need, it’s not going to be easy.

It will test the gaffer’s so-far-admirable ability to unearth talent to the limit.

Part of McKinnon’s problem is he does not just need a front man with a respectable goals-to-game scoring ratio.

In the shape of Simon Murray he already has that. Nine goals in 26 appearances, a string of them from the bench, represents a more-than-acceptable return from a young man, who remains a relative novice in the full-time game.

Add to that the goals supplied by Tony Andreu from his advanced midfield role, plus the finishing skills of Scott Fraser and Nick van der Velden, and it’s clear there are goals in this United squad.

What’s become increasingly evident is in the attacking formation the manager sets up, with just one right up top in the preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, the lack of someone to lead the team there is a weakness.

A loan move for Nadir Ciftci could still be on the cards.
A loan move for Nadir Ciftci could still be on the cards.

When handed the task, Murray puts his heart and soul into the role, but for all his undoubted assets and eye for a goal, he’s not a natural link man.

Down in the howling wind and driving rain at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium, he looked more comfortable in the second half when Van der Velden was pushed up alongside him.

The Dutchman didn’t do badly either but the partnership failed to produce the goal required and, having played up front on several occasions now, it’s clear that’s not Van der Velden’s position.

Likewise, when Tope Obadeyi, Cammy Smith and even Andreu have been used as the lone striker in the usual formation, it has been with limited success.

All have their strengths but, like Van der Velden, Andreu and Smith are more effective in a deeper role, facing the opposition goal when receiving the ball.

And with the exception of the early season League Cup win over Partick Thistle, Obadeyi looks better out wide.

Ironically, the better United do, the more acute the problem becomes. As they’ve risen to a commanding position alongside Hibs at the top of the Championship, opposing teams are giving them more and more respect.

They are sitting in, not committing players forward and placing an emphasis on quick and good defensive shape when McKinnon’s men get the ball.

That makes the need for a back-to-goal striker, who can hold the ball up and bring others into play more pressing.

Two words probably describe perfectly the type that’s needed now — Jon Daly. The former Tannadice favourite would fit like a hand in glove.

Hearts’ Conor Sammon fits the bill and, although things have moved on from last month’s attempt to get him on loan, if he continues to warm the bench things might be resurrected.

Similarly, while he’s different in terms of style, Nadir Ciftci’s ability to take the ball in and link means a loan return for him is not impossible.

The problem is Celtic won’t release until they know there is no chance of offloading him permanently.

That would mean a late January deal and as many as four games passing before a move was done.

The manager may not be prepared to wait that long.

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This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.