Supporters singing Paul Watson’s praises after double helps Dundee United secure victory

Paul Watson (centre) celebrates with his teammates after opening the scoring.
Paul Watson (centre) celebrates with his teammates after opening the scoring.

Paul Watson’s arrival at Dundee United may not have had fans shouting from the rooftops but they were singing his praises on Saturday.

The central defender’s signing just over a month ago was more notable for a rather flamboyant club video that confirmed the news than anything else.

However, he was the goal hero and man of the match as the Tangerines produced their best performance for some time in beating Partick Thistle 3-1 at Tannadice.

The 27-year-old former Falkirk and Raith Rovers man scored two excellent headed goals – one in each half – to make the match safe for United.

Striker Craig Curran made it 3-0 late on with a tap-in before United gifted former player Chris Erskine a consolation goal for Thistle in stoppage time thanks to a handling error by goalkeeper Matej Rakovan.

That loss of a clean sheet robbed Watson of a perfect scoreline but he was still happy with his day’s work.

He said: “There was a bit of frustration at conceding the goal at the end and we are disappointed with that because we were dying to get the clean sheet.

“It left a sour taste in the mouth. It was avoidable and we need to cut that out.

“However, the most important thing was getting the three points and hopefully we can kick on now.

“We had been working on set pieces, both for and against, in training so it was good to see that pay off with my two goals.

“At the end of the sessions we normally have 20 or 30 minutes when we go away and work on these things.

“We have done the moves on the training pitch and if the lads can put balls like that in every week then we should get a few goals between us from set-plays.”

The pretty comfortable victory made it back-to-back league wins for United following their success down at Queen of the South a fortnight earlier.

It also eased some of the pressure on manager Csaba Laszlo, who had come under fire after a poor start to the season.

United now have a winnable-looking away match against Alloa on Saturday and if they can beat the Wasps then suddenly things will not look too bad at all.

They currently sit in third spot in the Championship, just a point behind joint leaders Ayr United and Morton.

Perhaps more significantly, they are now better placed than the teams widely considered to be their likely title challengers: Ross County, Inverness Caley Thistle and Dunfermline.

Watson said: “All the other results went really well for us so log may that continue.

“I think it’s a very tough league, where anyone can beat anyone.

“It is going to be a case of the team that have been the most consistent being champions come May and hopefully that will be us.”

The Tangerines brought back Stewart Murdoch for the injured Sam Stanton and Curran was in for Nicky Clark, who was ruled out by an ankle problem.

Thistle included three former Tannadice men in the line-up: Cammy Bell, Blair Spittal and Craig Slater.

There was an early setback for the Jags when Thomas O’Ware suffered what looked like a serious injury and had to be replaced by Niall Keown.

As the visitors tried to rejig things, they fell behind to a well-worked United goal.

The Tangerines won a freekick out on the right when striker Pavol Safranko was fouled.  Fraser Aird took the setpiece and his excellent ball into the goalmouth was nodded home by Watson, who did really well to hang in the air and direct it past Jags keeper Bell.

Yannick Loemba then delivered another fine cross into the danger area four minutes later and the ball broke to Christoph Rabitsch, whose low drive was gathered by Bell at the second attempt.

It was a bright start from United but Thistle’s Miles Storey found room for a shot from the edge of the box on 22 minutes, although it didn’t trouble Rakovan too much.

Safranko looked like making it 2-0 three minutes later when he was picked out by Aird’s corner but his near-post header zipped wide.

The ball broke to one of United’s former Firhill players, Adam Barton, on 37 minutes but his curling shot lacked power and Bell saved pretty easily.

Ten minutes into the second half, Barton won the ball in midfield and then pushed on but his shot from the edge of the box went wide.

Thistle were still in the game at this point and James Penrice had a long-range effort deflected just past on the hour before Spittal should have done better with a header from close range.

With 73 minutes on the clock, there was a moment to remember – or forget if you were the player – when United’s Loemba tried a shot from the edge of the box and it sailed up and over the roof of the Eddie Thompson Stand – quite an “achievement” for the winger.

Loemba made amends in fine style just five minutes later, though.

After defender Frederic Frans won a corner on the right, Loemba sent over a beautiful cross that was met full on by Watson’s forehead for his second goal of the match.

Curran wrapped it all up when he prodded the ball over the line from a yard out after some fine trickery and great cross from Aird.

The Jags got a consolation goal in stoppage-time when Rakovan let the ball slip from his hands and sub Erskine headed home from close range.

That took a little bit of the shine off the performance but manager Laszlo was still satisfied.

He said: “It was a game we deserved to win.

“We have had criticism and I have felt the team has needed a bit of time.

“We changed in the summer by putting 19 players out and bringing a lot of new ones in.

“Today we looked more like a team and I am very pleased about that.

“Dundee United fans can be very critical but also very thankful if you fight for them and fight for the club.

“You might not win every game but if you play like we did today with this commitment and look like a team then it will be hard to beat us.”