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Dundee United get vital victory but former player Darren Dods makes life difficult for them

Scott McDonald grabs the winner.
Scott McDonald grabs the winner.

During his playing career at Tannadice, Darren Dods knew how to make life frustrating for the opposition.

A strong and solid defender for Dundee United, he must have been a nightmare to play against at times.

His City players have certainly learned from their manager as they gave the Tangerines an difficult afternoon on Saturday, even though the Championship leaders eventually came out on top.

Indeed, not only did Brechin have arguably the best performer on the park in the shape of frontman Andy Jackson, they could have been ahead at half-time.

The interval, though, brought waves of strong words from United boss Ray McKinnon as he left his players in no doubt that they had to improve.

They still huffed and puffed a bit until, finally, Scott McDonald scored the only goal of the game with just 10 minutes to go.

That winner didn’t improve McKinnon’s mood by much, though.

He said: “Hopefully, we won’t have to remember that game come the end of the season and we can just remember getting the three points on the board.

“From start to finish, I thought we were slow and it’s hard to explain why.

“Most of my team were off the pace and we didn’t have any tempo at all.

“I’ve got to give Brechin credit but we didn’t pass the ball well or get in behind them.

“Football can be like that sometimes but the important thing – and we reiterated it at half-time – was that this was a must-win game.

“It wasn’t great to watch or pretty in the slightest.

“There will be games like throughout this season that are really frustrating.

“That was frustrating for me to watch and I’m sure it was also frustrating to play in.

“Most of them needed to up their game but for whatever reason they just couldn’t get a spark.

“We’ve had a lot of games recently so we’ll take this win and just move on.

“We’re delighted at least to have nine points from our first three games.”

As for Dods, he was fully justified in being happy with his players’ display despite their being unable to hold on for a draw.

He said: “It was a great effort.

“I was disappointed at losing a goal so late on.

“We had kept it compact and made it hard for them.

“We had a few chances and if we had gotten our noses in front we might have made it harder for United.

“To come to Tannadice and get as many chances as we did, maybe nobody expected that.

“They are a good team and move the ball about well but we were restricting them to shots outside the box.

“For the goal, it was a pretty routine cross and probably the first time that we hadn’t dealt with a cross.

“Still, it is good to come here and put in a performance like that and that’s the standard we have to keep for the rest of the season.”

United had made a couple of changes to the team that started their last league game against Queen of the South. Out went the suspended Paul McMullan and central defender William Edjenguele dropped to the bench.

In for McMullan came Scott Fraser, while recent signing Paul Quinn partnered skipper Mark Durnan at the back.

The Tangerines had plenty of the ball in the early stages without hurting City.

The hosts would have grabbed the lead on 10 minutes were it not for a great save from goalie Graeme Smith, who finger-tipped away a Scott Fraser shot for a corner after he was found by a Billy King pass.

On 18 minutes, Jackson almost got his head on a cross for City then the same player curled a shot beyond the far post.

Three minutes later, Jackson made it a hat-trick of chances for him and his team when he ran into the box and chipped the ball over keeper Harry Lewis. It was just off-target, though, and the danger was cleared.

Up at the other end, the Tangerines had a shout for spotkick when James Keatings went down following a challenge by Aron Lynas but referee Euan Anderson waved play on.

With 26 minutes gone, United defender Durnan stayed up after a corner and got his head on a Keatings cross from the left. It looked goalbound until it hit City’s Finn Graham.

Ten minutes later, a superb pass from Sam Stanton sliced open the Brechin backline and it looked like Keatings would reach the ball before Smith but the keeper did well to make the save.

On 42 minutes there was a real let-off for United as a Jordan Sinclair cross was kicked on to his own post by Durnan. Keeper Lewis then scooped the ball back on to the upright before it was eventually cleared by Durnan.

United had to up their game in the second period but it was City who were creating the chances.

Firstly, Jackson beat the offside trap and should have picked out the run of Kalvin Orsi.

Sinclair then brought a brilliant save out of Lewis with a volley from the edge of the box after Lynas’s cross. Next up Jackson, who was having a terrific match, pulled his low shot wide of the far post.

Fraser found McDonald with a slide-rule pass on 61 minutes as United finally got back on the attack but the Aussie international pulled his shot wide.

A King corner was nodded past by Durnan at the back post as the hosts tried to make a breakthrough before Smith raced out to block a Murdoch shot.

The home fans were, understandably, getting frustrated but they got the goal they wanted on 80 minutes.

Stewart Murdoch collected the ball on the right and took a touch before firing over a cross that landed at sub Patrick N’Koyi’s feet. The striker tried to get control of the ball but as he did so McDonald nipped in to scoop his shot into the net with the help of a deflection.

N’Koyi could only head past at the back post when in a great position but City weren’t finished, either, and in stoppage-time a terrific strike from Paul McLean just missed the United bar by a few inches.

However, the hosts held on to stay at the top of the pile.