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Dundee United mid-season report card: Star man, transfers rated and overall grade for Jim Goodwin’s men

With 18 of 36 league fixtures played, Courier Sport delivers a verdict at the half-way point.

Dundee United players celebrate
Dundee United players celebrate. Image: SNS

Dundee United have reached the half-way point in their bid to secure an immediate return to the Premiership.

Jim Goodwin’s rebuilt Tannadice outfit have only lost one league match, boast a fearsome defensive record and are the top scorers in the Championship.

However, Raith Rovers’ outstanding form, allied with the fact they have played an additional game, means United are playing catch-up as we enter the second half of the season.

Jim Goodwin after earning a two-year deal to become Dundee United boss last summer
Goodwin is in his first full season as United boss. Image: SNS

Here, Courier Sport delivers the Tangerines’ mid-season report card.

Star man: Kevin Holt

A host of players could lay claim to this crown.

Kai Fotheringham has grabbed the brass ring and established himself as a bona fide senior regular, contributing 10 goals and seven assists to the cause and making his Scotland U21 debut.

Glenn Middleton has been a consistent supply line from open play and set pieces, while Declan Gallagher and Craig Sibbald have been colossal through the spine of the side.

In truth, there have been no failures among United’s regulars.

However, Holt has been a sensational capture; a revelation, given his arrival was not met with the same fanfare afforded to the likes of Gallagher and Louis Moult.

The 30-year-old has contributed eight goals to the cause, including a splendid hat-trick against former club Partick Thistle. He has also been a rock in the heart of the United defence, crafting a superb partnership with Gallagher.

As recently as Tuesday’s win over Arbroath, he illustrated tenacity and poise to win possession from Innes Murray before clipping a lovely, chipped pass for Middleton to hare onto and score.

Signings rated: A-

The task facing United last summer should not be understated.

Amid a predicted £4 million drop in revenue, they were charged with overseeing wholesale exits – attempting to gain some semblance of value for departing players, despite a weak bargaining position.

Around £2 million was ultimately shaved off the wage bill.

Ross Docherty in action for Dundee United
Ross Docherty was signed in the summer and made captain. Image: SNS

All the while, CEO Luigi Capuano and boss Goodwin had to build a squad capable of winning the Championship.

They did a fine job. Only one of the seven players signed in the last transfer window has scarcely contributed, on-loan Cardiff City man Ollie Denham. Any recruitment team in football would take an 85% hit rate.

Jack Walton looks a top keeper; Gallagher and Holt are immense; Liam Grimshaw is steady and versatile; Ross Docherty has been excellent when fit and is a dressing room; Moult just hit double-figures.

Jordan Tillson, signed on loan from Ross County after the transfer window closed, is also starting to come onto a game as his match sharpness improves.

Jordan Tillson patrols the Dundee United midfield against Partick Thistle.
Tillson has come onto a game. Image: Shutterstock.

United could do with a little extra guile in the attacking midfield pocket for when defences park the bus, while a pacy striking option would add another dimension. Those will be priorities in this window.

Magic moment: Chris Mochrie winner at Inverness

There were more impressive fixtures.

The 5-0 demolition of Partick Thistle at Firhill; a 6-0 hammering of Arbroath on the 100th anniversary of United’s name change; the opening day 4-0 triumph against the Lichties as Gayfield – all comprehensive and memorable.

However, the moment that lives long from the first half of the season was Chris Mochrie’s scrambled winner deep into injury time in the Highlands, securing a 1-0 triumph over Inverness.

The goal was ugly as sin, with the youngster prodding it over the line after an almighty stramash in the goalmouth – but it sparked pandemonium in the away end.

It was a cathartic moment, given how many late goals United conceded last season. And it was testament to a new spirit and gumption, with Goodwin’s men having played the last 25 minutes with 10 men.

Room for improvement?

The major area in which United must improve cannot be remedied until next term: a decent cup run.

The Tangerines crashed out of three different competitions in the first half of the season.

They were under-cooked for the Viaplay Cup campaign and a chastening defeat at Spartans expedited their group phase exit. They were dreadful in a 4-2 SPFL Trust Trophy defeat at Falkirk.

Jim Goodwin, Dundee United manager, on the touchline at Ainslie Park
Head-scratcher: Jim Goodwin cuts a frustrated figure on the touchline after losing to Spartans. Image: SNS

Most painfully, a penalty shootout defeat against League One side Queen of the South robbed the Terrors of a Scottish Cup run and the club of some additional revenue.

And while Goodwin’s side have been far from poor in Dundee, United’s league form at Tannadice is unarguably weaker than their efforts on the road (23 points and 21 goals away, compared to 18 points and 19 goals at home).

Finding the solutions to packed, deep defences – no easy feat, regardless of consistently lofty expectations – will be an ongoing priority.

Overall grade: B+

United have been excellent in the league. Yes, they are in second spot but that is largely due to the incredible form of Raith, allied with the fact the Fifers have played a game more.

Goodwin’s side are averaging 2.2 goals per Championship game and have conceded just seven league goals. Only PSV Eindhoven have conceded fewer across the professional divisions of Europe.

However, the cup failures are a mitigating factor to an otherwise fine campaign – even if the Championship trophy is the only one that matters this term.