JACKIE McNamara is confident the arrival of Mario Bilate will bring the best out of his fellow attackers after the towering Dutchman made his Dundee United debut against FC Utrecht.
Scorers: FC Utrecht - Toornstra (48), De Kogel (52); Dundee United - Graham (85)
Bilate, 23, arrived on a two-year deal form Sparta Rotterdam on Saturday and was immediately handed a place on the bench for last night’s clash against the Eredivisie outfit.
He replaced Nadir Ciftci with 18 minutes left to play and, despite only taking part in a handful of training sessions with his new team-mates, looked to have an assured touch.
Although, as United boss McNamara admits, he is some way short of fitness, Bilate’s presence will ultimately ensure there is fierce competition for the chance to spearhead the Tannadice side’s attack.
Indeed, as if to illustrate McNamara’s point, fellow attacker Brian Graham turned in a very impressive cameo, capped with a composed goal late on – albeit it was nothing more than a consolation. A sloppy start to the second half had already seen Jens Toornstra and Leon De Kogel assure the hosts of victory.
“Mario will bring the best out of everyone – Nadir [Ciftci], Brian [Graham], Ryan [Dow] everyone,” said McNamara.
“When you bring new players in you get that impact. Certainly, in my career, you would see new players come in every summer and you know you need to step up. You can’t rest on your laurels.
“Mario is a few weeks away from full fitness, he has hardly done anything with the team to get him fit. We just wanted to give him a wee bit of time, he’ll get more against NAC Breda on Tuesday.
“You can see he has a willingness to run behind and stretch teams and he can look after himself. When we get him fit he will be a real asset to us.”
Utrecht conjured up the first chance of the match when Mark van deer Mareel muscled Andrew Robertson off the ball on the right before delivering a tantalising cross to the far post. Blair Spittal’s desperate defensive header went inches wide of his own post.
The hosts’ star man, Toornstra, took just six minutes to manufacture some space inside the box and rattle a powerful shot into the side-netting. De Kogel was next to threaten with 16 minutes on the clock, with his shot from just inside the box forcing a smart low save from Radoslaw Cierzniak.
Utrecht were in the ascendancy through the majority of the first half, however United almost claimed the lead.
A kind break of the ball saw Ryan Dow presented with a shooting opportunity 18 yards out, however his ferocious drive fizzed just over Jeroen Verhoeven’s crossbar.
The home side’s response was immediate, with De Kogel wasting a glorious chance to give Rob Alflen’s side the lead. Danny Verbeek delivered a cross perfectly for the towering striker six yards from goal, only for him to head the ball straight into the arms of Cierzniak.
Verbeek was causing havoc again as Utrecht finally claimed the lead. He hit the byline and delivered a fine cut-back for the waiting Toornstra, whose scuffed effort from 16 yards spun into the net off the underside of the bar.
With United emerging from the interval in sluggish fashion, Utrecht doubled their lead in the 52nd minute. De Kogel was sent clear on goal by a slide-rule Mark Diemers pass and, belying his earlier profligacy, slid the ball beyond Cierzniak with aplomb.
The 100-or-so United fans who made the trip to the central Netherlands created a fine noise throughout, and they afforded Bilate a raucous welcome on 72 minutes.
However, it was Graham who would make the more decisive impact from the bench, showing excellent composure to slip the ball past Verhoeven after an incisive Charlie Telfer pass.
Only a smart low save from Verhoeven denied Chris Erskine as the hosts survived something of a late onslaught.
FC Utrecht: Verhoeven; Van Der Maarel (Markiet 61), Heerings, Cortie (Kum 45), Leeuwin; Toornstra, Kali, Janssen, Diemers (Barazite 61); Verbeek, De Kogel (Rubin 61) (Queseda 70). Subs not used: Havekotte, Sarota, Van Velzen.
Dundee United: Cierzniak; Spittal (Smith 82), Dillon, Morris, Robertson; Paton, Rankin (Fraser 82); Armstrong (Bilate 72), Dow (Erskine 72), Mackay-Steven (Telfer 61); Ciftci (Graham 72). Subs not used: McCallum, Petrie.