Dundee United flourish in their fortress

Dundee United substitute Aidan Connolly celebrates after his late goal. Picture: SNS

Dundee United substitute Aidan Connolly celebrates after his late goal. Picture: SNS

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DUNDEE United continue to be a relentless force on home soil. After Saturday’s victory over Kilmarnock, Jackie McNamara’s side have now taken 19 points from a possible 21 at Tannadice this season.

Dundee United 3-1 Kilmarnock

Scorers: Dundee United - Cifti (6), Armstrong (42), Connolly (90); Kilmarnock - Pascali (38)

It is this formidable record which is underpinning an impressive start to the season from the Tayside outfit. One point behind leading pair Inverness and Celtic, a slight improvement in their away form – they have lost four of their seven games on the road – could yet see them sustain a title challenge for a while longer.

Certainly on Saturday’s evidence, they look a side in good fettle. They beat Kilmarnock by two clear goals, but manager McNamara felt they could have won even more handsomely in the end.

“We’ve got to be pleased,” he said. “Kilmarnock are always tough opponents and they have brought in some new players. But we coped well and played some decent stuff. In the end, we could have won by a bigger scoreline if you look at the number of chances we created. But the most important thing was getting the three points.”

United were keen to bounce back from a defeat at Motherwell and took the lead in style in the sixth minute. Stuart Armstrong played a weighted pass into the path of Nadir Ciftci, who looked up before firing an unstoppable shot low across goalkeeper Craig Samson and into the corner of the net from 16 yards. However, Kilmarnock did not at that stage look too rattled and they threatened the United goal in the 13th minute.

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Josh Magennis played a cute flick forward for Robbie Muirhead to run onto as he advanced towards the home side’s penalty area – but United defender Sean Dillon got across quickly to intercept as Muirhead was preparing to head towards goal.

At the other end, Gary Mackay-Steven went on a driving run deep into the Kilmarnock penalty area. His cutback fell for Charlie Telfer, whose shot was in turn blocked by Kilmarnock’s Mark Connolly inside the box.

United’s next effort on goal came in the shape of Mackay-Steven’s 30-yard free-kick which Samson tipped over.

In the 34th minute, United had another chance when Chris Erskine broke clear and fed Ciftci, who had only one thing on his mind when he surged forward but saw his shot go wide.

The visitors then broke to the other end of the field, and from Alexei Eremenko’s corner, Magennis won the header but it went straight at United goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak.

Kilmarnock did find the net moments later, however. Eremenko’s defence-splitting pass found Rory McKenzie on the overlap and his shot came back off the post, with Manuel Pascali on hand to steer home the rebound.

United regained the lead three minutes before the interval when Erskine lifted a pass into the path of Armstrong who steadied himself before placing a low shot into the far corner of Samson’s net. In the 53rd minute Telfer released Armstrong, who ran 50 yards before his shot was saved low down by Samson.

United remained on top for most of the second half, although Killie’s Ross Barbour saw a shot in the dying minutes deflected just wide of the target.

But substitute Aidan Connolly made it 3-1 in injury-time with a close-range finish from Blair Spittal’s cross – after Armstrong had started the move. Kilmarnock manager Allan Johnston maintains his side will not let their heads drop despite their losing streak extending to four matches.

The Ayrshire club are struggling to regain the heights which they hit earlier in the season but Johnston is sure they can get back on track. He said: “It’s about moving on. We know we’ve got good players and it’s just about trying to get back to winning ways.

“We’re still confident in our own ability but it’s frustrating when you give a quality team like Dundee United an easy second goal like we did. But we know where we want to go and hopefully it will just take one win and we can get going again. There are positives we can take from this game and build on them for our next match.”

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