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3 Dundee United talking points: Tam Courts repays faith but remarkable 20-year stat underlines room for improvement

Courts have achieved his brief
Courts have achieved his brief

Derby day was bittersweet for Dundee United.

They secured their place in the top six and, for 59 minutes, appeared destined to do it in style.

Goals from Nicky Clark and Charlie Mulgrew had turned Tannadice Street into Easy Street for the hosts. Then came the collapse. Gone in 60 seconds.

Danny Mullen and Charlie Adam struck to restore parity and rescue a point for the Dee.

For the United faithful, it was a rather unsatisfying way for Tam Courts’ men to achieve their brief for the campaign.

And Courier Sport was there to analyse the talking points.

Tam Courts has justified his appointment

The ballsy appointment of Courts — an almighty roll of the dice — has paid dividends.

United’s stated aim at the start of the campaign was to secure top six football in the Premiership.

Courts has achieved that task.

Indeed, he effectively achieved it with a game to spare, given even a winning goal for the Dee on Saturday would not have knocked the Tangerines into the bottom half of the table.

It is the first time since 2015 that United will mix it with the big boys after the split and the tantalising prospect of returning to European football after a decade is a realistic one.

Charlie Mulgrew celibates his opener

Ask Aberdeen or Hibs — or, indeed, any of the eight clubs below Courts’ men — whether they would happily trade places. They’d bite your hand off.

By way of reference, around four years ago — April 7, 2018, to be exact — United succumbed to a chastening 3-2 defeat against Dumbarton. Craig Barr notched a double for the Sons.

Since Mark Ogren’s takeover, the Tannadice outfit have made gradual season-to-season progression and this, unequivocally, is another step in the right direction.

Don’t shout down the disenchanted

None of which is to say United have been perfect. Far from it.

They are literally the most imperfect side to ever occupy fourth place after 33 games since the implementation of the split in 2000/01.

United’s tally of 41 points is comfortably lower than the previous team to hold that distinction, Motherwell (44 points) in 2015/16.

Danny Mullen halved arrears at Tannadice

In 10 of the previous 20 campaigns — discounting the curtailed 2019/20 season —the Tangerines would have finished in the bottom six with their current total.

In addition, the last time they secured a top six place — the free-flowing outfit assembled by Jackie McNamara — they had scored 53 league goals by this point. The current squad has 31.

With city supremacy on the line, becoming the first United side to blow a two-goal lead against Dundee since August 2015 will also be irksome to the Arabs.

Football fandom is not always ripe for nuance, but it is perfectly possible for Courts’ side to be both successful, yet flawed, this term.

Those within the offices of Tannadice will be acutely aware of the need for improvement.

Will Carljohan Eriksson challenge Benji Siegrist during the run-in?

Approaching his 150th appearance for Dundee United, Benjamin Siegrist has been a magnificent servant and stellar performer for the club.

He undoubtedly boasts the demeanour and resilience to bounce back from another display which fell below his own lofty standards.

The Swiss stopper was caught under a Cammy Kerr cross for the Dee’s first goal, before being bamboozled by the power and swerve of Charlie Adam’s leveller.

Last month, he spilled a routine delivery into the path of Georgios Giakoumakis, allowing Celtic to find the net in a 3-0 Scottish Cup win.

While Siegrist’s quality is not in question, one must assume that Finland cap Carljohan Eriksson is snapping at Siegrist’s heels.

Eriksson arrived in January, fresh from winning Allsvenskan (Swedish top-flight) goalkeeper of the year following a splendid season with Mjallby.

But he is yet to make his debut.

Highly-rated: Eriksson

Eriksson, having penned a two-and-a-half-year deal, will also be at Tannadice next term. Siegrist, out of contract in the summer, looks increasingly likely to depart.

At what point do United start to plan for the future?

It would be a huge call for Courts to change the man between the sticks, but Eriksson must be knocking on the door.

Tam Courts rues ‘job done’ mentality in derby draw as Dundee United turn focus towards European push