IT ISN’T all too much for Jackie McNamara and Dundee United yet, but victories for the Tannadice side are becoming about as elusive as moths – to create a record that is as every bit as painful on the eye as these flying beasties.
You could spin plenty of positives for United from their efforts yesterday. Except for the fact that, by the final whistle, another game had come and gone without McNamara’s men prevailing over their opponents. It is now eight games this season that have yielded only a solitary win; with only four of these chalked up in the club’s past 26 outings.
McNamara acknowledged this week that football is a results business. Yet apart from the result yesterday, there was so much to recommend about his team. They played Inverness off the park for the first period, with creative fulcrum Scott Fraser a presence that the Scottish Cup holders could not quell.
As has been their wont, though, United did not convert vibrancy and openings engineered by this into goals. One strike, a bundled-in effort after only eight minutes that put Billy McKay on the scoresheet against his old club, was never going to be enough. Last season’s Scottish Cup winners and top-flight leading lights – who themselves have been foot-of-the-Premiership strugglers this season – predictably stabilised following the interval. In doing so, the fears of a restive home support were realised when Josh Meekings headed an equaliser from a 56th-minute corner.
McNamara acknowledged the need for a goal cushion to settle nerves on the pitch... and in the stands. “I’ve been in that position before when you can feel the tension and of course you can feel it here,” he said. “It is getting that second goal to calm the fans and the players down and then they can go and get back to playing football and enjoying it. That’s the biggest thing. We just looked that wee bit nervy in possession in the second half. In the first half we looked on it and comfortable in possession. But that comes with winning games.
“There was a wee bit of fear in the second half and credit to Inverness. They were chasing the game and pushed their full-back on, so our two wide men were getting dragged deep and that made it difficult for them to get up the park.”
As with the loss to Kilmarnock at Tannadice the previous week, three points slipped from United’s grasp because of a failure in front of goal – which came only two minutes after McKay had forced the ball over the line following fine work from Fraser to send Ryan McGowan down the right, his cut-back initially leading to keeper Owain Fon Williams blocking from Darko Bodul.
John Rankin seemed to have the goal at his mercy when left with only the Inverness keeper to beat after having the ball squared to him by Callum Morris but from 14-yards contrived to hit a low shot straight at Williams.
The importance of that moment became magnified at the start of the second period when Ryan Christie floated a corner from the right to the back post where the unguarded Meekings was able to power the ball high into the net.
United really ought to have been alive to the danger with the goal the product of a Draper effort that was blocked from a Christie corner immediately before.
“It was the same story as last week – we were by far the better team in the first half and if we get that second goal we go on to win,” United scorer McKay lamented. “But we never got it, they put us on the back foot, and that’s the last four or five goals we’ve conceded from set pieces. We’ve got to nullify that. From them on we cancelled each other out, and a draw was fair.”
His former team-mate Richie Foran certainly thought so, the Irishman’s appearance from the bench bringing him his first minutes in the league since he sustained a knee injury at Tannadice in March 2014 that sidelined him until this summer. “I thought I was ready a month ago but realistically I wasn’t,” said Foran, who appeared from the bench in the club’s Europa League qualifiers against Astra. “I wanted to play. If I have to sit on the bench for weeks or months I’ll keep my mouth shut and work hard.”
As he felt Inverness did. Eventually. “It’s great to be back and nice to get a point there. It’s a well-deserved point. United came out of the traps flying and took us by surprise. They looked like a team that had won six or seven in a row. Credit to them, they got their reward but slowly we crept back into the game and got what we deserved. It was a fair result.
“The manager was unhappy at half-time. We didn’t pass the ball well enough at all. We were only at 60 or 70 per cent of what we can do. There’s loads more to come from us.”
For McNamara’s sake, there has to be more wins to come soon from his United side.