A case of double seasonal cheer for Dundee United. Not only did they win this one without playing particularly well, they also saw their nearest rivals in the Championship title race, Inverness, fall further behind them. Robbie Neilson’s side now command a comfortable 13 point lead at the top of the table – not so much a gap as a canyon.
It was quite a battle against both the elements and an excellent Arbroath side who really were unfortunate not to take something out of this game as Neilson acknowledged. “We knew coming up here it was going to be a very difficult game – they’d only lost once in the league here all season. Credit to them, we were lucky to get the three points today.”
With waves crashing off the back of the ground in customary fashion Gayfield posed its unique challenge to Neilson’s men maintaining their impressive momentum, but it was the hosts who were caught cold by an early United surge. Within six minutes they were ahead after a failure to deal with a set piece left the ball on a tee for Sam Stanton, who drilled the ball beyond Derek Gaston with the help of a generous deflection.
From there until the interval, however, nearly all the pressure came from Dick Campbell’s part-timers who were impressive not only in terms of their fitness but also their intelligent use of possession. Bobby Linn provided an excellent outlet down the left flank conjuring up an assortment crosses and driving runs towards the United box as well as an outstanding curling free kick which Benjamin Siegrist anxiously tipped over the bar.
With the wind at their backs after the break United might have been hoping to impose themselves on the spritely hosts and they were handed the perfect opportunity to subdue their resistance when Nicky Clark was tripped on the edge of the six yard box by Gaston. The Arbroath keeper redeemed himself and kept his side in the game with a fine diving save from Clark’s effort from resultant spot kick.
The hosts continued to press and probe assiduously and United were forced to pull back in numbers. For all their admirable endeavours though Campbell’s men just couldn’t find a way of puncturing the wall in front of them though they went awfully close when Hamilton’s header cannoned off a United defender before skimming the top of the crossbar. In the closing stages
Linn sent a wonderful cutback across the face of the visitors’ goal but in what was the story of Arbroath’s day, they just couldn’t find the finishing touch.
“I’m just disappointed we didn’t get anything out of the game,” sighed Campbell. “There was nothing between the two teams.”