Coming back from two goals down with less than 15 minutes to go is not to be scoffed at but when the dust settled on this one there was no escaping that Dundee United’s pursuit of the Championship automatic promotion spot suffered another serious dent in this thoroughly unpredictable 90 minutes. Yes, it could have been worse, and yes they showed real guts for not giving up with defeat staring them in the face, but the fact is they now trail Hibs by six points. Mind the gap, as the saying goes.
The salvage job they did in this game also doesn’t hide that Ray McKinnon’s men have only taken one point out of the last nine. As they had done earlier in the season, Queen of the South came to Tannadice and made a right nuisance of themselves. Setting aside the importance of the outcome for matters at the top of the table, the match was a bit of a cracker which lent a glow to an otherwise chill afternoon on Tayside.
Not that McKinnon was particularly warmed by what he witnessed. “We’ve given up two points today,” he sighed. “Having gone a goal up we should have gone on to control the game, but we didn’t do it. I’m obviously just happy to get a point in the end.
“I don’t know if the players feel sorry for themselves on the back of a couple of defeats. But they’re a good bunch and they’ll come back from this. We’re going through a wee sticky patch – what you do is you change it and we did that today, by bringing three players on in the second half and it changed the game for us”.
United couldn’t have given themselves a better platform to get their fortunes back on track after their disappointing performance against Hibs last week as they literally burst out of the traps and got themselves ahead in just over three minutes. Simon Murray’s pace was several gears above Andy Dowie’s and as he raced into the box he unleashed a ferocious shot that flew into the roof of the net.
Having guided Queens to their first league win in nigh on three and a half months the previous week, new manager Gary Naysmith has clearly found a way of excavating the self-belief that carried the Dumfries side forward to such an impressive start to this campaign. Despite their stuttering opening to this game they had enough about them to start threatening the United defence with some slick moves of their own. It was no surprise then to see Stephen Dobbie pouncing from close range to drill in the equaliser for his 18th goal of the season.
It has to be said that McKinnon’s men responded well themselves to this setback and gave the visitors’ goal a bit of a hammering up until the interval, with the dynamic Murray causing them all sorts of discomfort. As they continued their quest to regain the upper hand after the break, however, determination mutated into anxiety and Queens showed their nous by cashing in with more telling quick-fire breaks.
First Dobbie neatly fed Joe Thomson and, although the youngster still had a lot to do, he showed excellent composure to slot the ball past Cammy Bell. If that was well taken, it paled in comparison to fellow loanee Dom Thomas’s strike for the visitors’ third. Drifting in from the right he unleashed a wonderful shot that beat Bell with some venom.
With the game going into its closing quarter you wouldn’t have given much for United retrieving anything out of this one. They dug deep though and hope arrived when Scott Fraser volleyed in following a poor clearance. With the Queens rearguard suddenly afflicted by an acute attack of the jitters there was a palpable sense that this wasn’t over yet. So it proved with Murray blasting in a merited close-range equaliser in the 89th minute.
“It was a rollercoaster for me as a manager,” admitted Naysmith. “The players deserve to be proud of their performance, but three-one up at any level with less than 15 minutes to go you should be winning.”