Dundee United crashed out of the Scottish Cup on penalties as League One strugglers Queen of the South stunned the Tangerines.
A captivating third round tie ended 2-2 after extra-time, with Kai Fotheringham notching a brace for the visitors, while Gavin Reilly and Lee Connelly rippled the net for Marvin Bartley’s charges.
Queens were perfect from 12 yards, converting all four of their kicks. Liam Grimshaw saw his effort saved by the magnificent Harry Stone, before Mathew Cudjoe blazed over the bar.
Staggering wastefulness stats laid bare
Dundee United created enough opportunities to win several football matches.
That fact is not to absolve the men in tangerine or sugar-coat the result. Quite the contrary. The wastefulness, notwithstanding Stone’s heroics between the sticks for Queens, was uncharacteristic and lamentable.
And a second successive defeat against League One opposition – exiting two cup competitions in the space of eight days – is unarguably poor.
However, boss Jim Goodwin is correct to suggest that, with a more clinical touch in the final third, United would have won handsomely.
From Glenn Middleton forcing a point-blank save from Stone in the third minute, to the on-loan Hearts keeper thwarting Chris Mochrie with a stunning reflex stop in the 117th minute, there was a steady stream of exceedlingly presentable chances.
United’s final tally of efforts, as per the BBC’s number-crunchers, stood at 35. Eighteen of those were on target. It is the most registered by the Tangerines by a distance this season, ahead of their 1-0 defeat at Spartans (20).
For context, in the Terrors’ 6-0 and 5-0 victories over Arbroath and Partick Thistle, the COMBINED shot count was 31.
Ultimately, progress is all that matters in the Scottish Cup, so the afternoon was a failure – but to suggest the performance was dreadful, or on the same level as the collapse at Falkirk, would be catastrophising.
But United must get their shooting boots back on when they travel to face Morton on Championship duty next weekend.
Back to basics needed
Even with their profligacy in front of goal, finding the net twice should have been enough to win the match. In 18 of their 21 fixtures this term it would have been, such has been United’s defensive strength.
However, the Tannadice outfit have now conceded six goals in their last two matches – against teams from the division below.
Prior to that, they had conceded six goals in their previous 17 GAMES.
And, akin to their 4-2 defeat at Falkirk, the efforts they shipped were preventable.
The first goal comes from a poorly defended corner-kick, with a Queens player making first contact at every phase of play. Following some pinball in the box, Reilly headed home.
For Lee Connelly’s strike, Ross Docherty surrenders possession before Liam Grimshaw makes a powderpuff attempt to stop Harvey Walker on the wing, allowing him to pick out the Queens No.10.
While toiling in the Championship, Morton will test the Terrors with physicality and direct deliveries. Getting back to basics and defending in the manner they have for the vast majority of the campaign will be imperative.
Cup football Annus horribilis complete for Jim Goodwin
Goodwin will happily forget every cup competition in which he has participated during 2023.
From Hampden heartbreak to several giant killings, his pursuit of silverware has been a futile and, at times, chastening one.
His Aberdeen side succumbed to a galling 2-1 extra-time defeat against Rangers in the Viaplay Cup semi-final, most notable for captain Anthony Stewart’s wild challenge that saw him dismissed.
While a stretch to suggest cause and effect, that preceded an almighty collapse for Goodwin’s time at the Reds. He would exit the Scottish Cup at the hands of junior side Darvel in one of the tournament’s biggest ever shocks.
At United, while he has overseen an impressive league campaign – particularly considering the major rebuilding job he was tasked with – his cup fortunes have scarcely improved.
A 1-0 defeat against League Two Spartans was the low point of a Viaplay Cup bid that saw the Tangerines exit at the group phase.
And a 4-2 SPFL Trust Trophy capitulation at Falkirk was, on Saturday, followed by Scottish Cup elimination to a Queens side on a run of one win in 10 games.
Memories will fade, providing Goodwin is holding aloft the trophy that matters in May — securing a return to the Premiership – but the Irishman will certainly hope that better cup runs are ahead next season.
Reach for the Kai
His performance will likely be lost amid the disappointment, but Kai Fotheringham produced one of his most potent displays in a United jersey to date.
Every time he received the ball, the winger was direct, positive and effective. The Tannadice academy graduate is clearly brimming with confidence following a goal-laden campaign and recent Scotland U21 debut.
As well as producing two excellent finishes, Fotheringham was responsible for countless dangerous deliveries into the box and tormented the Queens back-line throughout.
From battling for his place at the start of the season, the 20-year-old – now boasting nine goals and six assists – is among the first names on the team-sheet.