Dundee United moved a point clear of Raith Rovers at the summit of the Scottish Championship despite playing out an instantly forgettable 0-0 draw against Dunfermline.
The hosts almost claimed victory in the dying embers, with Deniz Mehmet denying Archie Meekison with a stunning finger-tip save. The Pars, meanwhile, struck the post through Craig Wighton.
However, a share of the spoils was a fair outcome following an underwhelming contest; one of several at Tannadice this term.
And Courier Sport was there to analyse the action.
Home vs away: In numbers
An exasperated Jim Goodwin acknowledged the feeling of déjà vu.
“We have seen that type of game numerous times at Tannadice this season,” he admitted.
The Tangerines have now picked up 19 points from a possible 33 at Tannadice.
It contrasts sharply with United’s spectacular form on the road, picking up 26 points from a possible 30.
Although the Terrors have scored a respectable 22 goals on home soil – averaging two a game – 10 of those strikes came in two league fixtures against Arbroath and Queen’s Park.
They also boast 22 goals in away matches, achieved in one fewer fixture, but have only conceded twice.
Fifty-eight per cent of United’s points have come on their travels.
The bi-weekly task that faces Goodwin’s side is not an easy one. Dunfermline were defensively excellent on Saturday, and most sides in the second tier are more than capable of mounting a stoic rearguard action.
However, United have ample attacking talent to solve that conundrum – and all eyes will be on Goodwin to see if he can mastermind more expansive, effective displays in the remaining outings at Tannadice.
Up the tempo
The most obvious solution – and demand – will be to up the tempo.
That doesn’t mean shelling hopeful diagonals to the attacker and desperately scrambling for second balls.
A bright opening 15 minutes saw Holt, David Wotherspoon and the returning Ross Docherty all zip slick forward passes into the final third, penetrating a packed Pars midfield and opening up the pitch.
However, when the opening goal didn’t come in that period, United’s play became a little more ponderous and pedestrian.
United too often made two or three passes when one would suffice; too many square balls; an over-reliance on shifting possession wide and hoping to find the perfect cross for an outnumbered attacker.
Dunfermline were well prepared for that, with Sam Fisher particularly good in the heart of defence.
If the Tangerines are to thrill their public in the remainder of the season, they must increase the speed and intensity of their football; in doing so, they may move, disrupt and create the spaces to hit the goal trail.
Dead ball disappointment
United’s lack of efficacy from set-pieces will also frustrate boss Goodwin, given the ability of Middleton and Wotherspoon.
The Tangerines earned 13 corners over the course of a maddening contest, more than any other team in the top two tiers of Scottish football on Saturday.
But aside from Ross Graham and Kevin Holt headers that drifted off target, the hosts rarely threatened to test Deniz Mehmet.
United have scored nine goals from dead-ball situations in the Championship this season, with the threat of Holt, in particular, a familiar refrain throughout the campaign.
However, a mix of wasteful deliveries and excellent defending from Dunfermline ensured there was no joy to be had from that avenue this weekend.
A point closer to the end game
This reads like the post-mortem of a galling defeat.
Understandably so. Dundee United have not fallen to the extent that a goalless draw at home should be met with high-fives and popped champagne corks.
Nevertheless, in the coming days, the reality of Saturday’s football will hit home and there will doubtless be more circumspection regarding the disappointment.
United have one target this term – only one thing matters, in football and financial terms – and that is promotion to the Premiership.
And they moved a step closer to achieving that.
Raith Rovers’ 3-2 defeat against Inverness at Stark’s Park (the Kirkcaldy club have also failed to win more league games at home than they have won) saw the Tangerines move a point clear at the summit.
If choosing to see the glass as half-empty, United’s blew the chance to create real breathing space between themselves and the faltering Fifers.
However, the title IS closer than it was going into the weekend and the Championship grind goes on, with improvement needed at Somerset Park next Saturday.