PETER HOUSTON was a happy man after his goal-hungry strike force ensured Dundee United suffered no Scottish Cup blues at Stranraer.
The Tangerines cruised into the next round as Johnny Russell left Stair Park with the match ball after bagging a hat-trick. His partner in crime, Jon Daly, backed him up with a double as the SPL side made light work of Stranraer.
United manager Houston said: “First and foremost the most important thing was we made sure we were in the hat for the next round and we did it with an accomplished performance.
“I had been drumming it into the players all week we were in a no-win situation because everyone expected us to come down here and win.
“Obviously we’ve had issues with conceding goals and keeping a clean sheet was pleasing and seeing our strikers score five goals between them completes a good afternoon’s work.”
The home side couldn’t afford any lapses of concentration. After five minutes United gave them an indication of just how easily they could hurt them, though, when Willo Flood’s short corner was picked up by Stuart Armstrong and the midfielder brought a fine stop from David Mitchell.
Stranraer needed to keep it tight for as long as possible but their plan to frustrate the Tangerines only lasted 13 minutes when the razor-sharp Russell opened the scoring.
Left-back Barry Douglas surged up the park and whipped in a dangerous ball towards the near post which and Russell quickly seized upon the chance and beat Mitchell with a low drive which ricochet into the net off Grant Gallagher.
Despite the setback, the Blues took the game to their illustrious visitors but without creating a real threat in front of goal.
However, any thoughts the Second Division part-timers had of creating a piece of their own giant-killing went out of the window as the 2010 winners killed the tie off with two more strikes before the interval.
With 27 minutes gone on the clock, the visitors poured forward and John Rankin found Douglas in another menacing wide position. The left-back looked up and found Rudi Skacel who wrong-footed the home defence with a neat lay-off for Russell to drill home his second to make it 2-0.
Five minutes before the interval the Tannadice Park outfit confirmed their place in tomorrow’s fifth-round draw at Hampden Park when Russell turned his hand from scorer to provider. The midfielder picked up a ball wide of the penalty area and rolled it back across the penalty area for Daly to plant home his side’s third with a sublime finish.
Stranraer started the second half with a flourish, but there was an air of inevitability of a fourth United goal blowing around the freezing cold Stair Park.
The woodwork denied Keith Watson and Mitchell superbly denied Russell on the hour mark as the visitors went for the kill.
There was little the young keeper could do to stop Daly bagging his second from close range after the home side failed to clear a corner seconds later.
Russell finally bagged his hat-trick in 69 minutes but there was an element of luck after a clearance from Stranraer defender cannoned off referee Steve Finnie.
The loose ball fell to Michael Gardyne and he fired over a low cross which the striker fired home from 15 yards to claim his side’s fifth and his 11th goal of the season.
Only the brilliance of Mitchell in the Blues goal denied Russell adding to his three-goal tally.
Stranraer manager Stephen Aitken was far from disappointed with his showing and said: “The plan was to keep it tight for as long as we could.
“My players gave me everything and we’ll take some lessons from the performance.”