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3 Dundee United talking points: Can Tam Courts’ men find cutting edge against Celtic after meek Rangers showing?

Frustration: Courts
Frustration: Courts

Dundee United failed to lay a glove on Rangers at Ibrox.

A James Tavernier penalty and a clinical late strike by Amad Diallo secured the points for the Light Blues.

As such, United’s bid to secure European football will go down to the wire.

Courier Sport was in Glasgow to analyse the action and look ahead to a momentous week for the Tangerines and their boss Tam Courts.

Shot-shy United must be more bold against Celtic

The most disheartening aspect of United’s showing at Ibrox was the utter lack of attacking impetus.

Zero shots on target; three touches of the ball in Rangers’ box; an xG of 0.11.

The closest the visitors came to finding the net was an errant back-pass by Connor Goldson which almost evaded Jon McLaughlin and nestled in the net.

McLaughlin, pictured, was an untroubled observer.

Courts is, to an extent, hamstrung by a lack of options.

Marc McNulty, Max Biamou, Ian Harkes and Peter Pawlett are all forward-thinking players unavailable to the United boss.

Lawrence Shankland, Louis Appere and Logan Chalmers are among those who have either been sold or loaned out this term.

So, even against a much-changed Gers side, it is perhaps understandable that the Terrors sought to keep it tight and aim to pinch something on the break, as maddening as that can be for some Arabs.

However, against Celtic — on home soil against a team with the title sewn up — there will be an onus on United to be pro-active.

Courts’ men are capable. They have proved it against Rangers at Tannadice this season. Twice.

It would be naive to suggest they will dominate Ange Postecoglou’s charges, but failing to warm the gloves of Joe Hart — as was the case with McLaughlin — is unthinkable.

Mathew Cudjoe’s baptism of fire at Ibrox

Cudjoe’s maiden start for Dundee United was one of highs and lows.

The Ghanaian teenager enjoyed a fine opening ten minutes, taking the ball on a couple of intrepid dribbles and showing no fear; evidently one of his virtues.

Cudjoe won possession on six occasions — the joint-highest tally in the United side along with Adrian Sporle — as he showed a willingness to graft and scurry back.

Mathew Cudjoe showed guile and graft but fell out of the game.
Mathew Cudjoe showed guile and graft but fell out of the game.

There were sufficient bright moments to nurture the feeling of optimism around this waspish forward, despite him being largely starved of service.

However, much like the team as a whole, Cudjoe struggled to impose himself on the game as it progressed.

He was, perhaps predictably, withdrawn after 56 minutes to be replaced by Nicky Clark. At that point, Cudjoe had surrendered possession more times (10) than any other outfield player in the United side.

By full-time, Tony Watt would top that metric with 16, underlining how tough United found it to make the ball stick in the final third.

Benji Siegrist looks back to his best — regardless of Richard Foster

Siegrist gave away the penalty kick which ultimately ended United’s resistance. That much is true.

His challenge on Fashion Sakala was mistimed, clumsy and undoubtedly a foul.

However, the dinked through-ball from Aaron Ramsey to create the opening was masterful and Siegrist made a split-second decision to come for the ball.

He wasn’t quick enough. No more, no less. In real time, that much was clear.

Sportscene pundit Richard Foster disagreed, dubbing it ‘dangerous’ and suggesting Siegrist should have been dismissed.

Foster, right, felt Siegrist should have been dismissed.

As far as spicy Sportscene verdicts go, it’s not quite up there with ‘I hope he’s broken his wrist or his hand’, but it was a harsh assessment.

None of which should detract from the fact that, if not for Siegrist’s heroics earlier in the contest, United would have been dead and buried long before Tavernier slotted home that spot-kick.

The Swiss stopper’s early low save from Sakala was sharp. His instinctive block to deny Scott Arfield from point-blank range was outstanding.

He parried another Sakala effort to safety.

Allied with a pivotal late save the previous weekend to deny Ryan Tierney a late leveller for Motherwell, Siegrist has looked back to his best in recent games.

One suspects he is destined to be a central figure against Celtic and Ross County.

Benjamin Siegrist back in Sportscene pundit’s crosshairs as Richard Foster claims Dundee United star should have seen red against Rangers

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