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Verdict: Lawrence Shankland double has Dundee United sitting pretty for derby

Lawrence Shankland heads Dundee United into a 2-0 lead.
Lawrence Shankland heads Dundee United into a 2-0 lead.

Dundee United head into the Dundee derby with a perfect record after a Lawrence Shankland double earned a convincing win over Dunfermline.

The Tangerines bossed most of the match at East End Park and now sit on nine points out of nine from three Championship clashes against a trio of teams thought to be likely promotion rivals.

They will, therefore, host city rivals Dundee at Tannadice on Friday night with confidence sky-high after this 2-0 success.

Shankland scored on 11 and 30 minutes, making it seven goals in three league games for the former Ayr marksman. It would have been even better had he converted the penalty he saw saved on 77 minutes.

The Tangerines had to alter things in central defence, with Mark Connolly calling off injured. Calum Butcher moved back from midfield and Ian Harkes was promoted from the bench.

The Pars made fewer changes than expected after their Celtic Park Betfred Cup heroics, with only Josh Edwards and Kyle Turner missing out. Andy Ryan and Josh Coley came in.

United found space going forward on 10 minutes but Shankland’s shot flew over after Harkes delayed his pass just a second too late.

Just a minute later, though, it was 1-0 to the visitors.

No prize for guessing that it was Shankland on target, with the on-fire frontman taking a pass from Paul McMullan, shaking off Stuart Morrison’s feeble challenge then somehow squeezing a low, angled drive through keeper Ryan Scully’s legs.

It was 2-0 to the Tangerines on the half-hour and it was an superbly-worked goal. The move was a sweeping one up the right wing, kicked off by Louis Appere’s pass to McMullan. The wee wide man then sprung forward to the byline before sending over a fabulous cross that was headed home by Shankland despite Scully getting something on it.

It was impressive stuff from Robbie Neilson’s men and Shankland almost had his hat-trick five minutes later when he pounced at the near post but this time Scully saved well.

Dunfermline defender Lee Ashcroft nodded a corner over the United bar two minutes before the break but the half belonged to the visitors.

The home side created an opening just after the restart when sub Kyle Turner, on at the break for Coley, shot straight at goalie Benjamin Siegrist.

Up at the other end, United came close on 50 minutes when Nicky Clark’s strike just missed the far post by an inch after he was teed up by Shankland.

It was end-to-end at this stage and the Pars threatened to get one back when Kevin Nisbet’s snap-shot flew just wide.

Dunfermline won a freekick on 57 minutes and captain Paul Paton’s ball in was ideal but Ashcroft headed over.

United brought on Peter Pawlett for Clark on the hour and it was he who missed an incredible sitter on 67 minutes. Shankland had done exceptionally well to steal the ball off Morrison wide right then slid the ball across the face of goal, where the sub was waiting.

It really was easier to score than miss but, from a couple of yards out and unmarked, Pawlett somehow sclaffed the ball past the post.

That should have been 3-0 and the 2,550 United fans hoped they wouldn’t rue that howler.

They then had another golden chance to make it three on 77 minutes but didn’t take that either.

Tangerines’ full-back Liam Smith hit a cross that was stopped by Turner’s arms inside the box and Shankland stepped up to take the spotkick. This one was a small win for Scully, though, as the keeper held the striker’s shot.

It actually felt odd to see Shankland not score but he could still be proud of his performance.

There was another chance for Shankland when the ball bobbled around the home goalmouth but his header went over.

All the singing was coming from the packed away end as the full-time whistle and United march on to the derby.

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