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LEE WILKIE: Case for the defence – Charlie Mulgrew loving life at Dundee United while Dundee’s backline will take plenty heart from Tynecastle result

Columnist Lee Wilkie with Charlie Mulgrew and the Dundee defence.
Columnist Lee Wilkie with Charlie Mulgrew and the Dundee defence.

Dundee United’s centre-backs were hogging the headlines at the weekend and quite rightly, too.

As a former central defender myself, that’s the kind of thing I want to see!

All season, the backline of the Tangerines has been lauded for the way they’ve kept the goals out.

Now, though, they are putting them in at the other end.

Not only that, but they are setting each other up for goals.

Charlie Mulgrew and Ryan Edwards grabbed the goals that made it three wins in a row with victory over Motherwell.

And it’s clear they are enjoying life at Tannadice.

You only had to look at the way Mulgrew celebrated his goal to see that.

Mulgrew celebrates

There were question marks over his signing at the start of the season.

Not over his quality or his attitude, but whether he could stay fit over the season.

That’ll still be levelled at him, that just happens at a certain age.

However, he has clearly been United’s Player of the Season so far.

And the beauty of his recent performances, like I said before, is he is affecting things at both ends of the pitch.

I think back to the derby when he threw in a last-gasp tackle to stop Cillian Sheridan equalising.

And then there’s Saturday where he ends up on the wing, does a step-over and sends in a beauty of a cross with his right foot for his central defensive partner to score.

It was unreal.

Leader on and off the park

As well as affecting things at both ends on the pitch, it very much seems like he’s doing a lot off it as well.

They knew what kind of person he was and the kind of player they were bringing in.

And it’s so important to have good characters with real experience around a club.

It adds so much.

I think back to my time at Dundee with Barry Smith and then there was the likes of Barry Robson at United.

Those sorts of guys expect a certain level from everyone they play with.

And players raise their game to meet that expectation.

It also helps when everything is going their way – there’s no getting frustrated because things aren’t quite going right.

Mulgrew nets the winner against Motherwell.

United are playing well because they are able to relax into games and go with what happens.

That’s great to see.

Be wary of Livi

But it should also be a warning for the Tangerines.

Because we’ve all seen in football how quickly things can change. One little bit of bad luck bleeds into another and results begin to get affected.

That’s what they have to be wary of.

Livingston tomorrow night is now a game with expectation of three points, but Livi come into this one having won two on the bounce and they’ll be right up for this game.

Tam Courts says he won’t leave any stone unturned and is into football 24/7. That will help.

Livingston, though, will be a real test. No doubt about that.


Jason Cummings gets the goal but Dee backline deserves credit

Lee Ashcroft, Ryan Sweeney and Jordan McGhee surround Hearts winger Barrie McKay.

Just as Dundee United’s backline played a big role in their win at the weekend, Dundee’s defenders will take plenty of confidence from their draw at Hearts.

It may not have been a result for the ages, but I’d call it a typical away point.

Heading to a tough venue with the opponent playing well, the hosts would be expected to have more of the play.

And that’s the way it was.

But the key for the Dee was keeping themselves in the game.

In particular Lee Ashcroft and Ryan Sweeney helped them do that.

Ashcroft has been such an important player for Dundee and it’s good to see Sweeney starting to settle in to life at Dens.

When you have players like Jason Cummings, Leigh Griffiths or Charlie Adam, you will always get a chance at the other end.

And that was proved with Cummings grabbing the equaliser.

That opened up a bit of a gap on bottom side Ross County.

Tomorrow night they have the chance to stretch that even further with the Staggies at Dens Park.

It’s a huge game for both sides with so much at stake.

Take a big win and Dundee are right back into the clutch of teams in front of them.

They don’t want to get detached, get a couple of results and they are right in amongst it again.

Lee Wilkie’s weekly column is published in the Evening Telegraph every Tuesday.

 

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