IF DUNDEE United needed a fillip before this afternoon’s derby match with Dundee, they received it yesterday.
Jamie Fullarton, 24, became the third player to join the club in the last seven days when he signed from Crystal Palace until the end of the season. He goes straight into the squad today, where he will be joined by fellow home debutants Charlie Miller and Alberto Naveda.
No United, nor Dundee, fan will need reminding of the Tannadice side’s last home-league victory, even though it might seem like a lifetime ago. It came against Dundee last December, and the feeling amongst the home faithful is that today is just the day to lay waste to so sorry a record. It might not be a wildly optimistic notion.
Dundee, Claudio Caniggia or not, have now lost their last three games, slipping out of the top six in the process. United, although marooned at the bottom of the table, have replaced multi-goal defeats with solitary goal losses, such as against Motherwell last week. They are turning the corner, if excruciatingly slow. Never has a win been more needed, or desired.
"It is coincidental that we meet Dundee, with them being the last team we beat at home in the league," said Smith yesterday. "But it doesn’t matter who we are playing, just as long as we get that monkey from our back. Three points is three points, but I don’t want my players getting caught up in the emotion of it all."
There will be plenty of that, all right. Dundee striker Fabian Caballero is set to take a seat in the stand this afternoon, having flown over from Bologna where he is competing his rehabilitation from a knee injury sustained in the last derby. He is sure of a warm reception from Dundee fans, and a hot one from the home supporters.
While United can boast three new recent signings, two are midfielders and one if a forward. It is in defence, however, where they will have problems this afternoon. Jason de Vos and Jim Lauchlan are both suspended, and the auxiliary centre halves - Smith is toying with moving Hasney Aljofree into the middle of defence, perhaps partnered by David Partridge - will have to face mot only Caniggia, but also Juan Sara, the scorer of a hat-trick in the first derby of the season.
Ironically, it was in this 3-0 defeat in September that United played some of their best football of the season. It was a glimpse of what they could do, and Smith does see light at the end of this tunnel and feels that the additions to the squad will give United more fluency.
"Fullarton will hopefully complement Charlie Miller in midfield, the solid player who will enable Charlie to be more creative. He is a Jim McIinally, or Billy McKinlay type of player, who works so hard."
The United fans would certainly warm to him should he repeat McKinlay’s deed in his last game with the Tannadice club - he scored a hat-trick, against Dundee.