NADIR Ciftci, Dundee United’s most recent signing, is relishing Friday’s league opener away to Partick Thistle but anything he does there is unlikely to outshine his strike which outdid FA Cup holders Wigan.
Ciftci gave an impressive indication of his ability as his 52nd-minute winner gave Jackie McNamara’s side a morale-boosting win in their glamour pre-season friendly with their Championship opponents.
The talented Turk penned a two-year deal with the Arabs earlier in the week and didn’t hang about as he left ’Latics goalkeeper, Scott Carson, utterly helpless with his 25-yard wonder goal which was the undoubted highlight of this keenly-contested encounter.
Ciftci, looking forward to his competitive introduction to Scottish football at Firhill on Friday night, had every right to savour his strike at the DW Stadium which he hailed as his most memorable to date.
“It’s my best goal ever,” he said.
“I just decided to try my luck and thankfully for me it went in.”
McNamara, who is preparing for his first full season at the Tannadice helm, was quick to pour praise on Dutch-born Ciftci and believes he has all the attributes to be a stand-out in his new surroundings.
He said: “Nadir has got that in his locker.
“I actually didn’t think he was having his best game and then he goes and produces that kind of goal.That’s why we brought him here and I’m sure he can do well for us.”
This was United’s final warm-up game before the real stuff kicks off under the glare of the live cameras at Firhill in just five days’ time, an occasion on which McNamara will go back to face his former club following his acrimonious departure from Glasgow back in January.
They were spurred on by a healthy travelling support who were in decent voice having made the journey down from Tayside in the hope of picking up some encouragement before the action begins in earnest.
There was no shortage of familiar faces in the Wigan line-up – including former Celtic trio Shaun Maloney, Thomas Rogne and Stephen Crainey, along with ex-Hamilton kids James McCarthy and James McArthur – after they lost their stirring fight for Premier League survival at the end of last season.
United rode their luck in the early stages when Ben Watson’s free kick found Grant Holt whose powerful downward header beat Radoslaw Cierzniak before coming back off his right-hand post. Rogne was first to meet the rebound inside the penalty area but his header went just inches over the top.
This was no low-key pre-season friendly and Rogne came close to an opener in 22 minutes when he rose to meet Watson’s free-kick but Cierzniak, United’s Polish keeper, got down in time to pull off a brilliant reflex save.
Then, in 25 minutes, Rogne was stretchered off following an accidental collision near the halfway line with United’s Stuart Armstrong, although afterwards Owen Coyle, Wigan’s recently-appointed manager, appeared to think it wasn’t as bad as first feared.
The Norwegian defender nevertheless lay flat out after appearing to land awkwardly on his back and was replaced by Chris McCann.
On the stroke of half time, David Goodwillie almost made it a scoring return to England following his switch back to Tannadice on loan from Blackburn a few weeks ago.
Goodwillie gathered the ball 16 yards from goal and curled a cute left-foot effort which Carson did well to touch over the bar for a corner.
But Ciftci lit up proceedings by striking early in the second half.
Goodwillie saw his shot blocked and it fell for Ciftci who still had a lot to do some way out from goal.
The former NAC Breda man, though, swivelled and with only one thing on his mind, he floated a sizzling 25-yard effort into Carson’s top corner.
Holt should have equalised in 65 minutes with a free header from Stephen Crainey’s cross but nodded wide from close range.
Former United striker Coyle praised his old club.
He said: “They should do well in the new season and I hope they do.”