Jim Goodwin has lavished praise on “brilliant” Ross Graham after the Dundee United centre-half bounced back from a miserable outing against Morton in superb fashion.
Graham, 22, was part of the back-line criticised by Goodwin in the aftermath of their 3-2 home defeat against the Ton, with George Oakley netting a perfect hat-trick.
The United boss lamented the Terrors’ “worst defensive performance of the season”.
Graham was far from alone in his travails, with the irrepressible Oakley arguably giving Kevin Holt an even more torrid afternoon – rag-dolling the big stopper for the dramatic winning goal.
However, the Scotland U21 international has illustrated his character and maturity by responding in perfect fashion, producing stand-out performances against Inverness and Dunfermline in successive clean sheets.
“I thought both Ross and Kevin Holt were excellent on Saturday,” Goodwin said. “We looked solid defensively, which is certainly a positive we can take.
“After a difficult first game back against Morton, Ross has been great in the last couple of matches. He deserves a lot of credit for that because he has waited patiently for his opportunity.”
Graham’s recent showings are even more laudable given he is playing on the right-side of defence as a predominantly left-footed player, deputising for the injured Declan Gallagher.
Having played his best football on the left side of a back-three, it is a learning curve.
“There are lots of right-sided centre-halves who play on the left – I had to do it myself a couple of times!” continued Goodwin. “So, there is no harm in a left-sided player on the right. He’s adapted to that very well.
“Back-to-back clean sheets underlines that the defenders are doing their jobs well – we just lacked a little bit at the top end of the pitch against Dunfermline.”
Goodwin: We expect more
And Goodwin makes no excuses for United’s failure to break down the stubborn Pars on Saturday, insisting his stars did not produce the quality required in the final third.
However, the Terrors are leaving no stone unturned in a bid to get back on the goal trail when they visit Ayr United this weekend.
“It is up to us to come up with the ideas to break down the opposition, and we didn’t work the Dunfermline goalkeeper enough,” he continued. “For the 11 shots we had, only a couple were on target.
“That’s not good enough, for the quality we have in the group and those forward areas.
“We expect more from ourselves. The boys know that. We analysed the game on Monday and the boys agreed. Once we got into that final third, our crossing wasn’t as good as it usually is. We didn’t find spaces.
“We need more in that final third, and we are working towards an improvement against Ayr.”