Dundee United’s defensive spine shows backbone

United striker Simon Murray celebrates his late goal which sealed victory. Picture: SNS

United striker Simon Murray celebrates his late goal which sealed victory. Picture: SNS

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DUNDEE United manager Jackie McNamara was delighted with the inexperienced spine of his defence after they provided the platform for a 2-0 victory at Motherwell.

German goalkeeper Luis Zwick blocked Marvin Johnson’s strike after he had been sent clear on the break and earlier produced a good diving save from the winger’s 20-yard curler.

The 21-year-old was well protected though on his second first-team appearance by summer signings Coll Donaldson, 20, and 22-year-old Mark Durnan.

With Callum Morris out injured, the pair have been thrust into top-flight action together for the first time. Donaldson only played once for Queens Park Rangers after leaving Livingston 18 months ago while former Queen of the South defender Durnan is making the step up from the Championship, but both have comfortably taken to the Ladbrokes Premiership.

United came close to earning a clean sheet in their opening game last Sunday before Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean’s header fell just under the bar and their solidity could allow them crucial time to discover their attacking blend amid a number of changes further up the park.

They were gifted an 83rd-minute opener when Motherwell’s Louis Laing sliced an attempted clearance inside his own near post under little pressure from Paul Dixon’s cross.

And Simon Murray combined with fellow substitutes Aidan Connolly and Robbie Muirhead to notch a second with the last kick of the ball after Motherwell goalkeeper Connor Ripley had gone up for a corner.

McNamara said: “I thought we were unfortunate last weekend with the goal we lost against Aberdeen. I thought we looked solid enough in the game.

“They created a good few chances and Luis has a few fantastic saves. But with the amount of crosses coming into our box as well at times, the two young centre-halves looked solid and composed and experienced despite being so young.

“It’s new to them as well coming here but they will only get better. I’m delighted with how they have settled into the team.”

Joe Chalmers missed a good chance as Motherwell enjoyed some sustained pressure around the hour mark but Ripley also produced excellent stops from Scott Fraser and Charlie Telfer.

Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough feels his team are in good shape for their visit to in-form Hearts on Wednesday and he hopes to add another midfielder before then.

“We’re fit enough, we’re prepared for it,” Baraclough said. “We will have Lionel [Ainsworth] coming back from suspensuion.

“Players are desperate to get a start in the team and you maybe look to utilise that. We will maybe have another addition in before then as well.

“I am comfortable with games coming thick and fast. We have been dealt difficult fixtures to start with.

“This is one I expected us to take three points from but we have not because we have not taken our chances. But we’re on the right track and there is nothing to be too disconsolate about if we carry on playing like that.”

For United, there is the not inconsiderable matter of a Dundee derby to prepare for now, with Paul Hartley’s side due to visit Tannadice tomorrow.

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