In a game lacking fluency and clear-cut chances, Dundee United striker Nicky Clark gave a glimpse of a prolific season to come with a trademark clinical finish.
The former Rangers and Dunfermline man scored United’s opener in the 1-1 draw with Arbroath on Saturday and their main goal threat getting off the mark so early in the season was a bonus for Csaba Laszlo’s side on an otherwise frustrating afternoon.
“It’s really early,” said Clark, whose 77th minute strike from a Fraser Aird cross was cancelled out by a Bobby Linn penalty five minutes later.
“We’re very disappointed with the result because we should be winning these sort of games.
“But we’re a new team which is gelling together. We’re going to try and play a certain way and I’m sure it will come good.
“It will take time.”
The win may have eluded Clark on his competitive debut but scoring on day one for his new team was more than just a consolation.
“Strikers thrive on scoring goals so obviously I’m delighted to get one,” he said.
“It didn’t get as many chances as I would have liked but we’re a new team as I said, still working on things.
“It’s always good to get a goal early on when you sign for a club. It gets the monkey off the back.”
Craig Curran wasn’t able to play at the weekend but having a partner up front may bring out the best in Clark.
He said: “I’ve played in one for most of my career so, yeah, it does suit me.
“But I don’t mind playing as a lone striker either. I can do it. The important thing is getting players round about you when the ball comes up.”
One of the other pluses of the game, which Arbroath took a bonus point from after winning the penalty shoot-out 5-3, was the performance of 18-year-old Declan Glass.
“He’s a really talented young player,” said Clark. “I’ve been very impressed with him in training. He’s a great talent. He’s got good technical ability and can go by players.”
It is an understatement to say promotion is United’s primary goal this season but the draw and spot-kick loss puts pressure on the Tangerines against Ross County tomorrow night if they want to progress from their Betfred Cup group.
Clark admitted: “It’s a massive game in terms of the competition and we need to go up there and get a win.”
Midfielder Adam Barton was signed at the weekend but didn’t play against Arbroath. And it was in the centre of the pitch where Tannadice boss Laszlo spotted early season flaws, albeit with mitigation.
He said: “After two-and-a-half weeks we had tired legs – we trained twice on Friday – but we have to play quicker football, especially at front. We kept the ball for too long in the midfield.
“I know that some people will be disappointed with the result. At 1-0 we had the game in our hands.
“This team will need a bit of patience. We’re not finished with our recruitment.
“We’ve signed Adam Barton, who can play in central midfield and central defence, and we want one more in central defence and a striker.”
Arbroath have left Tannadice still in contention in their group but, most importantly, with faith bolstered that another promotion challenge can be expected in League One.
Assistant manager Ian Campbell said: “I thought we did well. Overall, we were a tremendous against a good quality side.
“There wasn’t much in the game and we showed a lot of drive and determination.
“We were confident before this match but it will give us more confidence moving forward.
“I don’t think we’ll fall short in terms of being organised and keeping our shape. And we’ve got good players.
“There’s a lot we can take out of the game but we won’t get carried away.”