Manager Csaba Laszlo has challenged his players to show him the “true” Dundee United over the next couple of tricky away matches. The Tangerines head to Greenock to play Morton on Saturday then, the following weekend, it’s down south to Dumfries to face Queen of the South. Courier football writer Ian Roache analyses their best and worst on-the-road league results this season.
Three of the best
1 Inverness Caley Thistle 0 United 1. August 5. Position 3rd.
The Tangerines skilfully navigated their way around a challenging season-opening fixture against just-relegated Inverness in the Highland capital. Backed by a large travelling support full of early-season optimism following the previous weekend’s penalty shootout win over Dundee in the Betfred Cup, United took the lead on 13 minutes when Paul McMullan slotted home from the spot after he had been fouled inside the ICT box. Sam Stanton then missed a sitter for the visitors, setting up a nervy finale. Inverness pushed their opponents hard and probably felt they deserved at least a draw but this was a performance full of guile and grit from the Tannadice men.
2 Dunfermline 1 United 3. September 30. Position 2nd.
United must have been a little worried about travelling to East End Park to face a free-scoring Dunfermline side that was sitting proudly at the top of the table going into this fixture. However, they didn’t show it as they continued their excellent run of results against the Pars. They suffered a blow before the game when Stewart Murdoch called off ill, meaning midfielder Willo Flood slotted in at right-back. That didn’t unsettle them too much as, inspired by man-of-the-match Fraser Fyvie, they took command. Fyvie got the ball rolling with the opening goal on 35 minutes then Scott McDonald made it 2-0 with just two minutes of the first half remaining. The best was left to last, though, as Fyvie slammed home a terrific rocket shot from outside the box just before the hour. Callum Smith got one back for the hosts on 77 minutes but the game had long gone by then.
3 Dumbarton 0 United 2. October 28. Position 4th.
Ray McKinnon had left the club following a home loss to Inverness so the team was taken by caretaker coach Laurie Ellis. To say this trip was made with some trepidation would be an understatement, considering the managerial flux and the Sons’ excellent record against United. Ellis was brave with his selection, though, making no fewer than five changes to the side that started the ICT debacle. Murdoch, Tam Scobbie, Billy King, Scott Fraser and Matty Smith were all called up and contributed to an excellent, ship-steadying success. Former Dumbarton man Stanton was to be goal hero, scoring a cracker from outside the box after just two minutes. Stanton scored again on 15 minutes and the visitors, inspired by man-of-the-match Fraser, played the match out with composure and confidence. The home team had Craig Barr sent off on 63 minutes but the points were well on their way back to Tannadice by that time.
Three of the worst
1 St Mirren 3 United 0. August 26. Position 4th.
The Tangerines actually started this match brightly and it was midway through the first half before goalkeeper Harry Lewis was called into action. However, it all began to go horribly wrong on 26 minutes when Lewis Morgan was given the freedom of Paisley to run on and score from 25 yards. It stayed that way until the break then United found themselves up against it when they lost a second goal just three minutes into the second half, with Morgan on target again. Ian McShane made it 3-0 with 12 minutes remaining, Morgan the provider this time, and it was a painful first league loss of the season for the Tannadice men.
2 Livingston 2 United 0. October 14. Position 4th.
A large travelling support was there to back the Tangerines at Almondvale, buoyed by an excellent win at Dunfermline in their previous league outing. Sadly the fans were to be badly let down by players who, with the notable exception of Fyvie, all struggled. United lost a terrible opening goal when route-one football from the home team released Danny Mullen on seven minutes. He scored from the tightest of angles when goalie Lewis really should have had it covered. They didn’t really threaten the Livi defence until McDonald fired a shot wide on 54 minutes. Nikolay Todorov wrapped things up for the hosts with a close-range strike with a quarter of an hour left to kill any feelgood factor carried over from East End Park.
3 Brechin City 1 United 1. November 25. Position 1st.
This draw felt like a defeat. Now under the management of Laszlo following McKinnon’s exit, it was the first real disappointment for the new boss. The visitors out-passed the home team for the whole of the first half but only had McDonald’s 29th-minute goal to count for all that dominance. City came out and played the second half like a cup-tie and unsettled the Tangerines. Sean Crighton levelled things up just two minutes after the restart and United got the jitters. They threw their game plan out of the window and resorted to playing too many long balls and delivering useless crosses. They could have have lost the match in the end and it was sobering experience for Laszlo coming on the back of what was a thrilling 3-0 win over Falkirk at Tannadice just six days earlier.