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Dundee United 1 Dunfermline 0: Danish striker Thomas Mikkelsen seals vital victory for Tangerines

Thomas Mikkelsen opens the scoring for United.
Thomas Mikkelsen opens the scoring for United.

Dundee United gave themselves real momentum in the race for second spot in the Championship with this vital victory over Dunfermline at Tannadice.

Thomas Mikkelsen was the hero for the Tangerines, with his 30th-minute goal – the Dane’s sixth since joining on loan from Odense in January – separating the sides.

The result meant United moved ahead of Morton, who lost to St Mirren, and are now in third spot – just a point worse off than Falkirk.

The significance of finishing as runners-up behind Hibs is lost on no one at the club and they are now bang in contention going into the final four matches of the season.

It was same again for the Tangerines from the 4-4-2 line-up that started against Falkirk on Saturday, which meant 19-year-old midfielder Scott Allardice stayed in after his debut.

Indeed, the only change was Ali Coote on the bench instead of Alex Nicholls.

It was a similar story for the Pars, with the first-team unchanged and only one alteration on the bench – keeper David Hutton in for Cammy Gill.

The first real chance fell to the visitors on three minutes, with a cross from the right from Andy Geggan headed wide by Michael Moffat.

Just a minute later, United were on the attack and the inrushing Mikkelsen’s toe just failed to connect with a Blair Spittal cross.

With seven minutes on the clock, Moffat fired a low shot into home keeper Cammy Bell’s arms as the game swung from end to end.

The Tannadice men, who had enjoyed the upper hand this season against the Fifers with four wins and a draw in five meetings, had yet to settle and Nicky Clark had another shot on goal for the Pars on 19 minutes.

United did create a golden chance three minutes later for Simon Murray, though, with Tony Andreu playing him in and the striker stabbing a left-foot shot past the post and into the side-netting from 10 yards.

The Andreu-Murray combination was at it again just a minute later when the Frenchman found the Scot, who looped a header on to the roof of the Dunfermline net.

There was then a pivotal minute in the game that included a shocking miss by the Pars and a goal for United.

It all happened with half-an-hour gone, with first Rhys McCabe delivering a fine cross from the right to the unmarked Moffat, who looked certain to score but somehow lost his footing and keeper Bell was able to gather.

Having enjoyed that huge stroke of luck, the hosts raced up the park and when Murray ran down the right then crossed into the goalmouth, Mikkelsen – in a good position again – was there to bundle the ball home from close range.

United had a decent chance to make it 2-0 a couple of minutes before the break when the ball ricocheted off Mikkelsen and fell to Murray, whose shot was saved by goalie Sean Murdoch.

Nicky Clark tried to pull the Pars level before the interval but his strike was blocked by defender William Edjenguele before McCabe tried in vain with the rebound.

United went on the attack after the restart and Spittal looked favourite to win a race for the ball with Murdoch but the Pars goalie slid in and cleared the danger.

Kallum Higginbotham almost laid the ball on a plate for Moffat on 49 minutes but the Dunfermline striker just couldn’t make the connection.

On 59 minutes, there was a moment of magic from Andreu that deserved a goal but didn’t get it.

The on-loan Norwich man raced unchallenged towards the edge of the box then let fly with a right-foot shot that had Murdoch beaten but smacked the goalie’s right-hand post.

Former Tannadice defender Callum Morris, who had left the field to change his shirt, returned to head into the arms of Bell after a corner.

The Fifers then made a double substitution, bringing on Ryan Williamson and Gavin Reilly for Geggan and Moffat on 66 minutes, while the hosts replaced Allardice with Lewis Toshney.

Spittal was fouled just outside the Dunfermline box on 74 minutes and it looked like a freekick in a great position for the Tangerines until referee Willie Collum waved play on. Spittal then did well to set himself up for a strike from 15 yards but his shot was straight at Murdoch.

With Joe Cardle on for the visitors and Nick van der Velden for the home team, it was a case of whether or not the Pars could do a Falkirk and get a late leveller.

With six minutes to go Murray skied a shot when picked out by a Stewart Murdoch cross then Van der Velden missed a sitter in stoppage-time after some excellent play from Andreu.

That should have been a goal but United supporters were still happy when the final whistle blew.

Attendance: 5,304.

Dundee United: Bell, Durnan, Spittal (Van der Velden 78), Murdoch, Murray, Edjenguele, Flood, Mikkelsen (Coote 86), Andreu, Robson, Allardice (Toshney 69). Subs not used: Zwick, Dixon, Telfer, Kuate.

Dunfermline: Murdoch, Talbot, Geggan (Williamson 66), Wedderburn, Moffat (Reilly 66), Ashcroft, McCabe, McMullan (Cardle 77), Higginbotham, Morris, Clark. Subs not used: Hutton, Martin, Paton, Spence.

Referee: Willie Collum.