Scott McDonald served notice that Dundee United are back in the “winning groove” ahead of their massive match against Dunfermline.
The Tangerines will travel to East End Park for their Championship crunch clash this Saturday full of confidence after an assured attacking display sealed three excellent points at home to Greenock Morton.
The final scoreline may have been just 2-1 but United could and should have won by more goals as their forward play finally turned from sluggish to smooth.
The home team took the lead on 65 minutes thanks to a splendid goal from James Keatings.
The move came up the left-hand side, with four of their forward-thinking men involved as Billy King played the ball to McDonald. The Aussie picked out Paul McMullan and his flick was blasted home by Keatings, despite goalie Derek Gaston getting a touch.
However, Morton hit back via a tap-in from substitute Bob McHugh 10 minutes later.
With just seven minutes left, however, McDonald smashed the ball home from close range after a Mark Durnan header had hit the post.
It was a thoroughly deserved win for United after a patient, composed and even adventurous display produced under a fair bit of pressure, caused by some disappointing recent results.
An upbeat McDonald thought it was the ideal way to prepare to play the Pars.
He said: “We’ve got another tough game next weekend against Dunfermline but this victory will help.
“It’s a good one to take into East End Park.
“We had a couple of draws prior to this one so it was good to get back into the winning groove before we play Dunfermline.
“We are going down to their place and know it’s going to be a hard one.
“They are top of the league but if we beat them we could go top.
“It’s a big clash but we will be ready for it.”
McDonald was particularly pleased that there was no anxiety in United’s play after Morton got their equaliser with just 15 minutes to go.
“I think the fact that it went to 1-1 and we didn’t panic considering the results we’ve had of late was a good sign,” said the former Motherwell and Celtic man.
“It would have been easy to start panicking and the football goes out the window when you start to try and force things.
“I thought we were very patient, though, and we got a good victory in the end.
“The front players all clicked.
“You can see that when the likes of Billy and Paul get on the ball they excite the fans.
“So that, in turn, gets the rest of the team going.
“I felt there was some really lovely, intricate play between the front four, especially in the first half.
“We have been talking about this for weeks but now it was nice to actually put it out there in front of people.
“Hopefully, we can build on this.
“We’ve not been performing to the levels we know we can and expect from ourselves but this was a lot better.
“It wasn’t perfect, although it never is going to be.”
McDonald was the matchwinner but he revealed he thought he wasn’t going to be needed in the decisive move.
“I just thought Mark was going to score,” he said.
“The big man should have had a hat-trick of headers so I have been winding him up about that.
“Look, I have made a career of reacting like that.
“I said earlier in the season that if I can get 20 of those tap-ins I will be happy.”
United boss Ray McKinnon was delighted with the work his front duo put in and believes they will only get better as the partnership evolves.
McKinnon said: “I was hoping for that.
“I wanted a really good performance as well as the three points and I thought we got it.
“I thought we looked really good midfield to front.
“It was nice to have James Keatings and Scott McDonald playing in a two up front for the first time really.
“I thought they looked great and you can see a real partnership building there.
“James still has a wee bit of fitness yet to come but he worked so hard out there.
“Overall, I thought we were good and deserved the victory.
“We could have scored some more goals.
“I think it helps to have the two strikers in there who can take the ball to feet, link the game and threaten.
“They gave options to our midfield and wide players while also being a threat in the box.
“When you put all that together it does give you better fluency in the play.
“I was disappointed to have lost the goal because we could have been out of sight by that time but, overall, I was pleased.
“It was a great response from the players.
“Hopefully, we can keep it going into next weekend and I think the players are continuing to grow in confidence.”