This definitely wasn’t the send-off Lawrence Shankland would have wanted as he prepares to report for international duty with Scotland.
He failed to score against Alloa and Dundee United suffered yet another dismal defeat at Recreation Park.
Now he will need to pick himself up for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Russia and San Marino and hope that national coach Steve Clarke wasn’t watching this poor United performance on TV.
Kevin O’Hara’s tap-in had given the hosts a deserved lead on 18 minutes and the visitors didn’y do nearly enough to even salvage a point.
The Tangerines missed the strength and experience of the injured Calum Butcher in midfield and also couldn’t get the ball to Shankland often enough.
United had made one change to the side that started the six-goal romp against Morton six days previously.
The missing man was Butcher and Sam Stanton stepped in to replace him.
New Scotland squad member Shankland was in his usual place before joining up with his international colleagues for next Thursday’s match against the Russians in Moscow.
United, who were wearing their black strip, made a tentative start and had to defend when Alloa’s Adam Brown fired a low cross over from the left on six minutes.
Just a minute later, Shankland almost got his head to a deep cross from Peter Pawlett but it was cleared for a corner. Another good ball into the Wasps’ box – this time from Paul Watson – deserved a finish.
A one-two with Shankland set Pawlett off and running on 14 minutes but he couldn’t get enough power behind his shot.
Having made s stuffy start, United fell behind on 18 minutes.
With United defender Liam Smith sleeping at left-back, a slide rule pass from Scott Taggart cut through the Tangerines’ line and played in Kevin Cawley. He cut the ball to the waiting O’Hara, who poked it home from close range.
United centre-back Troy Brown headed wide a couple of minutes later, while Paul McMullan went on a mazy run inside his own box before falling down and Brown saved his colleague by brilliantly blocking Flannigan’s shot.
The Wasps were well on top and O’Hara’s shot just cleared the visitors’ crossbar on 27 minutes after a sweeping move.
On 32 minutes, the Tangerines were claiming for a penalty for handball against Taggart after Shankland’s shot struck him but referee Greg Aitken waved play on.
Home goalie Jamie MacDonald made a bit of a hash of Smith’s cross but the danger was cleared then, up at the other end, Adam Brown’s shot was held by United number one Benjamin Siegrist.
As the half-time whistle blew, the out-of-sorts visitors could have no complaints about being a goal down.
There was no blistering start to the second half that the United fans had hoped for.
A long ball hit towards Shankland by McMullan, which was easily plucked out of the air by MacDonald, was the best they could muster on 55 minutes.
Manager Robbie Neilson wasn’t a happy man down on the touchline and he made a switch a couple of minutes later, with Louis Appere replacing Adrian Sporle.
McMullan’s shot then stung the hands of the Alloa keeper as they finally began to threaten.
Pawlett flashed a header wide on the hour-mark then McMullan had another strike, which was saved at the near post.
Adam King came off the bench to replace Stanton before Watson nodded a corner over and Appere just missed at the near post.
There was substantial pressure from the Tangerines now as they played towards the end housing most of their fans.
However, the Wasps has a glorious chance when they raced into the United box on 66 minutes and Cawley’s shot had to be blocked. Adam Brown then broke upfield but couldn’t trouble Siegrist.
The Tannadice team threw on Cammy Smith for the final 20 minutes, with Harkes making way, and they should have been level on 74 minutes.
McMullan sent his cross over from the right and Shankland should have done better than just nod the ball past the post.
United’s night almost went from bad to worse when keeper Siegrist let a Mark Reynolds passback run under his foot and he had to scramble back to stop it going into his net.
Four minutes from time, Alloa were reduced to 10 men when Flannigan, who had been booked in the first half, received a second yellow for a foul on Appere.
That didn’t matter, though, and they saw the match out.
Alloa: MacDonald, Taggart, A. Brown (Buchanan 79), Graham, Deas, Robertson, Flannigan, Hetherington, O’Hara, Trouten, Cawlet. Subs not used: Henry, Thomson, O’Donnell, Gillespie, Gilhooly.
Dundee United: Siegrist, L. Smith, Sporle (Appere 57), Reynolds, McMullan, Pawlett, Stanton (King 61), Brown, Harkes (C. Smith 69), Shankland, Watson. Subs not used: Deniz, Chalmers, Graham, Meekison.
Referee: Greg Aitken.