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3 key Dundee United conundrums as internal friendly gives Jim Goodwin food for thought ahead of Raith Rovers clash

With the Tangerines boasting plenty of depth, Goodwin has selection dilemmas to tackle.

(L to R) Louis Moult, Jim Goodwin and Tony Watt of Dundee United
Who leads the line will be among Jim Goodwin's big calls ahead of next week. Images: SNS

Dundee United played an internal bounce match this morning (Friday) as they navigate a 13-day hiatus without a senior fixture.

The low-key workout was largely designed to maintain sharpness, while working on shapes and strategies ahead of next week’s mouth-watering Championship trip to Raith Rovers.

And it will also give boss Jim Goodwin food for thought as he weighs up who should be in his line-up for the televised clash in Kirkcaldy.

Following a decent winter transfer window and with a near full-strength squad to choose from, starting berths are by no means certain and Goodwin has some conundrums to consider.

Watt? Moult? Or both?

It is a headache that is the envy of most managers in the Championship.

But a headache, nonetheless.

Tony Watt celebrates his goal for Dundee United against Ayr United
Watt celebrates his leveller against Ayr. Image: SNS

If Goodwin opts to continue with David Wotherspoon in a ‘No.10’ role, then it realistically only leaves room for a sole striker.

Louis Moult is arguably more stylistically suited to the assignment. He is adept at using his physicality to hold up possession, bring United’s midfielders into the game and is an aerial threat.

However, Tony Watt completely changed the game when he came on against Ayr United last weekend. The former Celtic and Scotland striker has a maverick, unpredictable quality and, when given a sight of the sticks, is a fine finisher.

Watt also boasts five goals in his last six games, while Moult has three in his last 12.

Louis Muolt of Dundee United scores against Arbroath
Moult is on double-figures for the season. Image: SNS

Goodwin could opt to start both players, as he has on plenty of occasions this season, with Watt charged with dropping deeper and supplementing the midfield while out of possession.

That would likely see Wotherspoon drop out of the side.

Regardless of Goodwin’s call, at least one player with vast Premiership – and perhaps even international – experience is going to start on the bench.

Who starts in defence against Raith Rovers?

Ross Graham could consider himself incredibly unfortunate if he were to lose his place for the trip to Stark’s Park.

Adapting to an unfamiliar role as right-sided centre-back, Graham was excellent in recent shutouts against Inverness and Dunfermline, and solid once more in the 2-1 victory at Ayr.

He has responded to a difficult outing against Morton with aplomb. As has Kevin Holt, who was given a torrid time by January’s Championship player of the month George Oakley.

Dundee United's Ross Graham strides out of defence
Ross Graham strides out of defence. Image: Richard Wiseman / Dundee United FC

However, Goodwin now has options – and has been afforded close to a fortnight to ponder them.

The arrival of Sam McClelland on loan from St Johnstone means that United have a naturally right-footed, 6ft3ins centre-half with international pedigree in their ranks.

While only 22 years of age, he boasts a gold-plated apprenticeship at Chelsea and shone in England’s League Two last term. Until an unfortunate ankle injury, he appeared likely to be a regular top-flight starter for the Saintees.

It would be gutsy and ruthless for Goodwin to pitch McClelland straight into action next Friday night, but not out of the question.

Likewise, one cannot entirely discount the prospect of Declan Gallagher being back in contention, having been initially ruled out for around a month after undergoing groin surgery on January 12.

Sam McClelland, Dundee United loan arrival.
Sam McClelland is a Dundee United player until the end of the campaign. Image: Richard Wiseman/Dundee United FC

Goodwin is unlikely to take any risks with the Scotland man – especially given United’s newfound depth in defence and their strong position in the league – but stranger things have happened than a dramatic return.

Who will be winging it for United?

Goodwin underlined his willingness to make alterations when Kai Fotheringham was dropped from the side against Ayr, with Alex Greive deployed on the right flank.

It was statement decision, given Fotheringham boasts 18 goal contributions – finding the net 11 times, and teeing up another seven – during a sensational breakthrough campaign.

Alex Greive points at his No.7 Dundee United jersey
Greive was deployed on the right win against Ayr. Image: Richard Wiseman / Dundee United

Greive was diligent and stuck to his task, while showing an inclination to drive inside, creating space for right-back Liam Grimshaw to burst into. However, it wasn’t a home run of a display.

Fotheringham was brought on at the same time as Watt and, while not as impactful as the forward, added pace and power to the attacks from wide.

With Mathew Cudjoe itching for an opportunity and Miller Thomson back in the squad at the weekend, Goodwin has a plethora of choices – a mix of pedigree and youthful exuberance.

It is far more unlikely that Goodwin makes a change on the opposite side, given the understanding Scott McMann and Glenn Middleton have cultivated.

Glenn Middleton celebrates finding the net against Arbroath.
Middleton already boasts 12 assists for United this season. Image: SNS

As well as Middleton notching 12 assists in 30 outings, the duo rarely give attackers a sniff down that wing, aiding United’s defensive efficacy.

But with Wotherspoon, a wonderful left-sided midfielder over the years with St Johnstone, on the books, you can never say for sure.