Dundee United 3 Inverness CT 0 (agg 4-0): Goals galore as Tangerines reach play-off final

Nicky Clark puts away the penalty.
Nicky Clark puts away the penalty.

Dundee United got among the goals to reach the Premiership play-off final with an ultimately comfortable win over Inverness Caley Thistle.

Holding a 1-0 lead from the semi-final first leg in the Highlands on Tuesday night, they struggled to get going at times in the return but then suddenly raced clear of ICT, launching attack after attack.

They took the lead from the penalty spot – the award was disputed by the visitors – when Nicky Clark sent keeper Mark Ridgers the wrong way.

It was 2-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate after 54 minutes when big Osman Sow turned to shoot home.

Clark then hit both posts before United scored again through sub Pavol Safranko 10 minutes from time.

United were without injured midfielder Calum Butcher, while Safranko was only well enough to start on the bench. As expected, Clark was promoted after his super sub role, while defender Rachid Bouhenna took Butcher’s place in the middle of the park.

Missing for ICT was the suspended Liam Polworth, who was red-carded in the first leg. Tom Walsh came in for him and that was the only change for the visitors.

Watched by St Mirren manager Oran Kearney and Hamilton boss Brian Rice – representing the two possible final opponents – from the stand, the Tangerines went looking for another goal to add to their 1-0 lead.

After a quiet start, the match warmed up when a nice United move saw Clark dummy the ball and Peter Pawlett curl a shot into the arms of Ridgers on seven minutes.

Pawlett looked lively again when he danced inside the ICT six-yard box but there were no takers for his cutback.

However, it was the Highlanders who were nearly celebrating on 14 minutes when a deflected shot from Walsh required a great save from goalie Benjamin Siegrist to stop them levelling the tie.

Siegrist had to race from goal to save at Jordan White’s feet with 20 minutes on the clock.

United’s Paul McMullan then injured teammate Clark when they both went for the same ball and the former Rangers and Dunfermline player needed treatment.

The hosts were a bit flat and they nearly lost a goal on 32 minutes when Joe Chalmers’ corner was nodded just over by White.

Tannadice skipper Mark Reynolds was booked for pulling back White before ICT enjoyed another good chance. However, Siegrist was the home hero as he dived at Aaron Doran’s feet when the Inverness man was one-on-one with the goalie.

Doran was then booked on 38 minutes for fouling McMullan then Ian Harkes of United tested Ridgers with a low drive.

With the match deep into first-half stoppage-time, the Tangerines took a dramatic lead from the spot.

The ball was cut back by Harkes to Pawlett outside the Caley six-yard box and he fired it at goal. It struck defender Brad McKay on the leg and then the hand and referee Kevin Clancy pointed to the spot.

Up stepped Clark, who had appeared to be struggling with injury, to send Ridgers the wrong way.

ICT kicked off the second period without manager John Robertson in the dugout after he was sent to the stand by ref Clancy for complaining about the spotkick decision.

Clark tested Ridgers with a freekick on 51 minutes then, three minutes later, United had the semi-final under control.

Sow was the scorer – his first goal for the club – and McMullan the creator. It was great stuff form the big man and not bad from the wee man either.

McMullan tried to move to the byline on but was blocked. He kept going, though, and stabbed the loose ball forward to Sow, who was standing with his back to goal inside the six-yard box. Sow turned and shot with his left foot and the ball flew into the net.

The Tangerines suddenly had a three-goal overall lead and the fans were on their feet celebrating.

ICT made a change, with Nathan Austin replacing Shaurn Rooney, while Safranko came on for an injured-looking Pawlett on 63 minutes.

The Slovakian international was involved in a great move just minutes later which also involved McMullan and saw Clark crack his shot off the goalie’s left-hand post.

Remarkably, Clark then hit the other upright after a moment of madness from Ridgers saw him clatter into McKay and leave the goal at the United man’s mercy.

Siegrist saved well from Austin’s header and the Tangerines took off both Sow and Clark, with Calum Booth and Sam Stanton replacing the scorers.

It was 3-0 on the night and 4-0 overall on 80 minutes. Sub Safranko clipped the ball past Ridgers after a defence-splitting pass from Stanton.

There was no further scoring and it was on to the Tannadice office for the fans, who rushed to snap up tickets for the final against either the Buddies or Accies.

Attendance: 8,540

Dundee United: Siegrist, McMullan, Sow (Booth 72), Clark (Stanton 78), Robson, Bouhenna, Reynolds, Watson, Harkes, Pawlett (Safranko 63), Connolly. Subs not used: Currid, Frans, C. Smith, Chalmers.

Inverness CT: Ridgers, Rooney (Austin 55), Chalmers, Donaldson, McCart, Doran (McDonald 74), Walsh (Harper 89), White, McKay, Trafford, McHattie. Subs not used: MacKay, McCauley, MacGregor, Gunn.

Referee: Kevin Clancy.