Dundee United 1 Dunfermline 0: Simon Murray sends patient Tangerines joint-top of table

Simon Murray.
Simon Murray.

Simon Murray smashed the ball high into the net to beat 10-man Dunfermline and send Dundee United joint-top of the Championship.

The Tangerines moved alongside Hibs on the 27-point mark thanks to Murray’s 78th-minute strike from close range on a night when patience was a virtue for the home team.

The Pars went a man down six minutes before half-time when Nate Wedderburn almost cut United’s Tony Andreu in half with a terrible tackle.

That should have made it easier for the hosts but they struggled to break down the Fifers until Murray’s breakthrough on 78 minutes.

The Tangerines had made just one – sadly enforced – change to the line-up that started the match against Queen of the South. Paul Dixon will be sidelined until the new year with a knee ligament injury so Jamie Robson came in at left-back.

The Pars went unchanged from the team that kicked off the draw against Raith Rovers, although there was a late change on the bench with Ryan Williamson pulling up before the game and being replaced by Callum Smith.

The East End Park men were without a league win since the September 24 success over St Mirren and their target was to get further away from the bottom-placed Buddies. United’s goal was to draw level with the Hibees.

Just like the fans inside a chilly Tannadice, the game took a while to warm up.

The first incident of note didn’t arrive until the 13th minute, when a neat move from United saw Frank van der Struijk wriggle free up the right then cut into the box. The Dutchman had several good options but chose a bad one by chipping the ball behind the inrushing Tope Obadeyi.

On 20 minutes, Murray produced some tidy footwork to almost create an opening right in front of goal but he couldn’t quite get his shot in.

Just two minutes later, the visitors went on the attack with a terrific run from Nicky Clark and his shot had United goalie Cammy Bell diving down to his left.

Up at the other end, an Andreu strike was saved by Pars keeper Sean Murdoch as the match finally began to flow.

After Dunfermline’s Kallum Higginbotham was booked on 35 minutes for pulling back Willo Flood then was caught himself by Scott Fraser but no freekick was given.

Tempers were getting frayed and the game erupted on 39 minutes when the Pars went down to 10 men.

Andreu was the victim of a brutal challenge by Wedderburn on the halfway line and it was no surprise whatsoever that referee Don Robertson reached for the red card. It was a crazy challenge that did his teammates no favours.

Obadeyi of United and Farid El Alagui of the Pars were booked in the aftermath then, just minutes later, Murray got a yellow card for dissent.

Murray then created a great chance for himself just before the break when he turned and then shot at goal, only for Murdoch to save with his legs.

The Pars made a tactical change for the second half, with Rhys McCabe coming on for Joe Cardle.

Predictably, United were seeing plenty of the ball now but they didn’t do much with it until the 58th minute, when Fraser sent a shot just wide.

Andreu had a couple of goes at goal around the hour mark then the hosts made a double substitution, bringing on Nick van der Velden and Cammy Smith for Obadeyi and Charlie Telfer.

On 68 minutes, Van der Struijk’s cross from the right was headed just wide by Murray for the home side before Murdoch was booked for time-wasting.

United sub Smith blasted over from outside the box on 71 minutes then he was left raging when the striker shot wildly over rather than play him in.

Andreu sent another shot over the Fraser had two goes to beat Murdoch but the keeper saved both times, the latter going for a corner.

It looked like a goal was inevitable and when the ball was sent over from the left by Fraser the ball bounced around the six-yard box until it was smashed high into the Dunfermline net by Murray.

The Pars tried their best but, with legs tired, they couldn’t get one back.

Attendance: 5,996.

Dundee United: Bell, Durnan, Murray (Spittal 82), Fraser, Obadeyi (Van der Velden 63), Telfer (Cammy Smith 63), Edjenguele, Flood, Andreu, Van der Struijk, Robson. Subs not used: Zwick, Dillon, Donaldson, Toshney.

Dunfermline: Murdoch, Talbot, Martin, Ashcroft, Herron, Geggan, Wedderburn, Clark, El Alagui, Cardle (McCabe 46), Higginbotham (McMullan 84). Subs not used: Hutton, Paton, Fordyce, Callum Smith, Moffat.

Referee: Don Robertson.