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Dundee United v Hibs verdict: Key moments, player ratings and star man as dramatic Jamie McGrath penalty boosts Tangerines survival bid

Jamie McGrath was the coolest man inside Tannadice when it mattered

Jamie McGrath after netting a penalty against Hibs for Dundee United
Jamie McGrath wheels away. Image: SNS

Jamie McGrath converted a nerve-shredding injury-time penalty to give Dundee United a pivotal 2-1 triumph over Hibs.

United, desperately in a need of a victory after Ross County’s win at St Johnstone left them five points adrift at the foot of the Premiership, took the lead through Easter Road academy graduate Steven Fletcher.

Mykola Kuharevich levelled after the break before Kevin Nisbet rattled the bar with a free-kick.

However, United resurrected their survival bid on Easter Sunday, with McGrath slotting home to secure their first league win since January 2.

Key moments

Legendary Scottish Cup-winning boss Ivan Golac took a bow in front of his adoring public prior to kick-off.

Could some of that 1994 stardust rub off on the class of 2023?

Tannadice great Ivan Golac returns. Image: SNS

It didn’t look like it when Hibs almost claimed the lead.

A Harry McKirdy cross was flicked towards goal by Nisbet — but Mark Birighitti deflected it wide with his leg. Whether or not the Aussie knew much about it was a different question altogether.

And United swiftly claimed the lead at the other end. Aziz Behich, a constant threat playing as a left-sided midfielder, was afforded too much space to deliver by Josh Campbell, and Fletcher headed home superbly.

The hosts blew golden opportunities to double their lead after the break.

A deep cross by Kieran Freeman found Behich at the back post. His cut-back was inch-perfect for Fletcher, but the experienced front-man lashed over.

Fletcher celebrates his opener. Image: SNS

Scott McMann tried his luck from 30 yards, warming the palms of ex-Scotland number one David Marshall, before Immi Niskanen blasted over following more outstanding work by Behich.

United paid for their profligacy when Charlie Mulgrew misjudged a Marijan Cabraja delivery, allowing substitute Kuharevich to slam a ferocious equaliser past Birighitti from inside the box, via the underside of the bar.

Kuharevich smashes home a fine leveller. Image: SNS

It almost got for worse for United when Hibs talisman Nisbet struck the bar with a fizzing free-kick from 25 yards.

The Terrors wobbling, Elie Youan then shot inches past the post after being sent haring through by Nisbet.

But it was United who claimed a dramatic, crucial triumph.

Fletcher was clumsily felled by Will Fish and, with 89 minutes on the clock and the weight of the world on his shoulders, McGrath was the coolest man in Tannadice, sending David Marshall the wrong way.

Dundee United star man: Aziz Behich

If United had been more clinical, Behich would have claimed a hat-trick of assists.

As well as his pin-point cross for Fletcher’s opener, he put another great chance on a plate for the ex-Scotland striker and teed up Niskanen. Both of those opportunities were wasted.

Behich was a whirlwind down the left. Image: SNS

Behich thrived in a more advanced role and, looking ahead to the final seven games of the season, could emerge as United’s most potent attacking threat.

Craig Sibbald, Jamie McGrath, Fletcher and, in particular, the outstanding Loick Ayina can consider themselves unlucky not to be deemed the top of the Tangerines. 

Player ratings

Dundee United (4-3-3): Birighitti 6; Freeman 6, Ayina 8, Mulgrew 6, McMann 6; Harkes 6 (Anaku 88), Sibbald 7, McGrath 7; Fotheringham 6 (Niskanen 60, 3), Fletcher 7 (Edwards 90), Behich 8.

Subs not used: Newman, Graham, Djoum, Cudjoe, Thomson, MacLeod.

Manager under the Microscope

Jim Goodwin, as has been the case during his stewardship, did not shirk the big calls.

United Boss Jim Goodwin. Image: SNS

Captain Ryan Edwards was dropped to the bench in favour of the returning Mulgrew, who will not reflect on Hibs’ leveller with much pride.

Goodwin also deployed a back-four, allowing Behich, ordinarily a left-back or left wingback, to play in a more advanced role. That did pay dividends.