Dundee United 2 - 0 Raith Rovers: New-look side shines

James Keatings sweeps home the 72nd-minute penalty for Dundee United after substitute Sam Stanton had been brought down.  Photograph: Sammy Turner/SNS
James Keatings sweeps home the 72nd-minute penalty for Dundee United after substitute Sam Stanton had been brought down. Photograph: Sammy Turner/SNS
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Dundee United’s priority will never change from trying to secure promotion, but this victory in their Betfred Cup group opener will certainly serve its purpose.

Ray McKinnon’s side prevailed through Paul McMullan’s 
59th-minute opener and James Keatings’ 72nd minute penalty against Raith Rovers as both summer signings gave an indication of their potential worth for the season ahead.

After enduring the pain of missing out on a return to the Premiership via the play-offs at the end of last season, there can be no excuses this time round and hitting the ground running before the league campaign gets under way early next month should help their new-look side acquire some momentum.

“It’s a good start” said McKinnon afterwards.

“We’re pleased with the win considering there’s so many new faces.

“We’ve got a bit to go in terms of sharpness but this will help us moving forward.

“Keatings has been hungry for a goal and hopefully there’s plenty more to come from him.”

United had no fewer than six debutants in their starting line-up following another summer signing spree, with the most recent, Sam Stanton, settling for a place on the bench having signed from Hibs just hours earlier.

Barry Smith, the former Dundee manager, took charge of his first competitive match with the League One hopefuls having replaced departed boss John Hughes recently.

The hosts made a bright enough start with Billy King, the former Hearts and Rangers attacker, seeing his 20-yard effort go wide of Aaron Lennox’s far post.

But, in 28 minutes, Raith should have taken the lead.

Deniz Mehmet, United’s new Turkish goalkeeper, sent his attempted clearance right to Greig Spence who quickly shuffled the ball inside to Liam Buchanan.

Buchanan ought to have found the empty net from 20 yards but instead his half-hearted effort was headed off the line by United’s Mark Durnan.

The second half started with Keatings, another of United’s new recruits, having a shot on the turn which Lennox did well to hold.

They eventually made the breakthrough in style in 59 minutes.

Scott Fraser skinned Kyle Benedictus down the right before slipping a pass to Scott Allardyce who, in turn, fed McMullan.

From the edge of the penalty area, McMullan curled a sweet effort high past Lennox and into the top far corner before they ensured victory in 72 minutes.

Stanton, the United substitute, was brought down by Iain Davidson, the former Dundee defender, and Keatings calmly stepped up to sweep home his left-foot penalty.

“We’re all disappointed with the result but there are plenty of positives to take,” said Rovers manager Smith afterwards.

“If we had scored with that opportunity from Liam early on
it could have been a different
 game.

“Dundee United are expected to win the championship this season so we’ll take this on the chin and move forward.”