While he understands passions run high on such a tense occasion as a play-off final, Sean Dillon still can’t condone team-mate Wato Kuate’s display of petulance against Hamilton Accies on Thursday night.
After posting a performance that meant it merited surprise when he re-emerged for the second half, Kuate made a further spectacle of himself by becoming involved in a spat with Mark Durnan having already had a run-in with Dillon.
The 21-year-old midfielder continued to draw attention to himself when he was substituted shortly afterwards, flicking out an arm at Durnan as his team-mate sought to hurry him off the pitch.
Kuate then sarcastically applauded fans who were jeering him as he headed down the Tannadice tunnel. The final act of a mini-drama played out on an already tense evening was Ray McKinnon bringing the curtain down on Kuate’s eventful eight-game Dundee United career.
The manager later remarked he won’t play for the club again. So a player who scored one of the goals of the season against Morton earlier this month misses out on tomorrow’s decisive Premiership play-off final second leg at the SuperSeal stadium. Unless there’s a significant change of heart from McKinnon, Kuate’s short United career is over.
It was something the United manager could have done without on a night when his side were badly served by the officials in a tight 0-0 draw. Simon Murray was sent off after earning his second booking for simulation. While the first yellow card seemed justified, the second, after Scott McMann swiped at the player’s knee, seemed harsh indeed.
Steven McLean, the referee, was directed to take the action he did by his far-side assistant, Graham Chambers. McLean was almost immediately minded to rescind the yellow and will do so next week, when United’s appeal, lodged yesterday, is heard. In the meantime Murray, who has scored four goals in five play-off fixtures to date, is free to play tomorrow. His availability lessens the blow of Kuate’s self-inflicted meltdown and resultant absence from the second leg.
Dillon accepted a lot was at stake but described the midfielder’s actions as disappointing – and akin to a drunk on a night out. The United club captain tried to placate Kuate, who was becoming frustrated with his poor performance and shouts from team-mates, but to no avail.
“You’re doing your best to speak to people and certainly with him I wasn’t going down the road of roaring and shouting,” explained Dillon. “For me it wasn’t going to help, so I tried to be calm with him.
“Sometimes it’s like somebody being on a night out, a few drinks and you can’t talk to them, so what do you do? You try to bite your tongue a little bit and get on with the situation and unfortunately for him he’s been taken off and he hasn’t reacted well to it.”
Dillon was first to feel the unpredictable Kuate’s fury as he sought to return his teammate’s focus where it should be – beating Hamilton.
“I touched his stomach,” said Dillon. “I just wanted to calm him down, but what do you say. Emotions are high. I’m reluctant to hammer him on it. It’s frustrating. It’ll be frustrating for him.
“From a personal point of view I thought I was lacking quality [on Thursday] and I’d like to think if he’s being honest with himself he’d probably say the same.
“He’s probably a little bit upset with how he played and his emotions probably got the better of him a little bit, but these things happen. I’d be reluctant to go over the top with him. He’s a young boy. I don’t agree with it. I didn’t like what was done and I’m not saying it’s OK to do that, no way. But emotions are high and we’ll see what happens.
“I’m not backing up what he did by no means. No matter how bad you are you go over and wish your team-mate the best of luck coming on for you, whether it’s after 80 minutes or after 20 minutes. I’ve had it myself getting taken off before half-time in a game. You’re angry, you’re upset, you’re embarrassed. But you can’t do that.”