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Dundee United manager Robbie Neilson relishing ‘exciting time’ after winning start to new era

Sam Stanton opens the scoring.
Sam Stanton opens the scoring.

Manager Robbie Neilson is relishing an “exciting time” at Tannadice after Dundee United’s American adventure kicked off with a win.

The Tangerines triumphed 2-1 at home to Falkirk on Saturday, a scoreline that flattered the Bairns.

Watching the action unfold from his Minnesota home via a live video feed was United’s new owner Mark Ogren.

The US businessman will have been happy to have seen first Sam Stanton open the scoring on 22 minutes then Pavol Safranko follow up with a second goal on 53 minutes.

The Bairns were then reduced to 10 men when ex-United captain Paul Paton was sent off for a head-butt on Safranko.

The visitors got a goal back in injury-time when Aaron Muirhead scored a penalty but the hosts held on.

The future now looks bright according to Neilson, who revealed that the takeover was major factor in his decision to become boss after the departure of Csaba Laszlo.

Neilson said: “When I first came in and spoke to Mike Martin, the previous chairman, he said: ‘Look, this thing is bubbling away in the background.’

“So I knew about it.

“With these things, you try to keep it away from players and the staff because I have been at clubs where it’s been on then off then on then off again.

“So to finally get it over the line is great.

“I spoke to the new owner briefly when he was over here and his plans for the club are very exciting.

“To be part of that is great and I wanted to be part of it.

“One of the reasons I decided to come here was that I was aware it was there in the background.

“I think it will be a very exciting time for the football club.”

It was and exciting time for the fans when man-of-the-match Stanton opened the scoring.

There was a fair bit of fortune involved, with a heavy deflection sending goalie David Mitchell the wrong way after Stanton shot from just outside the box.

However, Stanton didn’t care how it came about and neither did the United supporters in what was a pretty respectable pre-Christmas attendance of 5,267.

Five minutes before the break, the home side came within a whisker of a second goal when Rachid Bouhenna’s volley was tipped on to the bar by Bairns goalie Mitchell.

The Tannadice men were 2-0 up on 53 minutes with a simple but effective goal from a corner.

Aird took the setpiece from the left and it landed perfectly on Safranko’s forehead, with the Slovakian striker steering the ball just inside the post.

Dundee United’s players  celebrate Sam Stanton’s opener. SNS.

There was then a flare-up involving Falkirk’s ex-United man Paton and Safranko on 64 minutes.

Paton appeared to use his head on Safranko and referee Stewart Kirkland waved the red card at him, while the home striker got a yellow.

Just a few minutes later, United boss Neilson took the sensible option by replacing Safranko with sub Craig Curran.

McMullan then missed a sitter on 76 minutes when he blasted over when teed up perfectly just inside the box.

Three minutes from time it was nearly three for the hosts when United defender Frederic Frans powered in a header that Bairns goalie David Mitchell did well to hang on to.

United’s Frederic Frans celebrates at full-time. SNS

The home team seemed to strolling to the final whistle but they conceded a goal two minutes into injury-time through Muirhead’s penalty after sub Dennon Lewis was fouled by Paul Watson.

That still wasn’t enough to spoil Neilson’s day.

The manager said: “I thought it was pretty comfortable for us.

“We controlled a lot of the start of the game and then we scored.

“The two teams then changed shape a couple of times.

“I did feel we were very much in control of the match but we lost that goal at the end after we over-committed a bit and got done.

“At the end of the season, if we achieve what we want to achieve then nobody will be bothered about that though.

“It was a massive result for us.

“The loss and two draws have not been good enough for us so it was important to get back to winning ways.

“Now we want to build momentum when we play Alloa and then Partick so it’s on to next week now.

“The expectation on us here is huge but I felt the players handled it very well.

“The first goal was massive and I thought in the first 20 minutes we controlled it and once we got that goal it kind of opened up and we were comfortable.”

There was an injury scare for United when captain Fraser Fyvie hobbled off midway through the second half.

He had to be helped up the tunnel but Neilson doesn’t believe it’s a serious problem.

Neilson said: “He is all right.

“He just got a knock on the leg.

“Actually he was blaming me for it because I was speaking to him during the week about coming back from a knee problem.

“When you are doing that you tend to be a bit tentative in the tackle so I was telling him that you need to go and make that first tackle that gets you over the line – shows that you are over it.

“He did that and got a knock so it’s my fault! He’ll be fine and it’s just bruising really.”

Tangerines’ keeper Benjamin Siegrist also required treatment for a shoulder injury before seeing out the match but he also should be fine to face Alloa on Saturday.