CALUM Butcher escaped a red card yesterday to go on to become one of Dundee United’s star men in a performance he reckons gives the Tannadice side the edge over Celtic ahead of this weekend’s League Cup final.
The midfielder was a stand-out in a tempestuous quarter-final tie that stands as the first of four meetings between the sides this month.
Butcher admitted he has never experienced such a run of games between the same opponents before but was adamant United now have the upper-hand after holding Celtic yesterday with just nine men.
United’s cause this Sunday at Hampden is helped by the fact Virgil Van Dijk is suspended following his red card yesterday, and pending an expected appeal from Celtic.
Butcher could find himself in retrospective trouble after appearing to be the beneficiary of a case of mistaken identity in the same incident that saw Van Dijk red carded.
Although it was Butcher who clashed with the defender, fellow midfielder Paul Paton was the one sent-off by referee Craig Thomson, to the astonishment of nearly everyone.
“I thought my challenge was fine,” said Butcher afterwards. “I’m just heart-broken for Paul because he’s a big part of our team so it was disappointing that he got sent off. Paul’s come over and tried to calm it all down if anything and the referee’s gone over and given him the red card.”
Butcher said he expected United to appeal his team-mate’s red card but added he had no fears that he will now be the one implicated. Indeed, he was happy to look forward to Sunday’s clash at Hampen Park as the same sides compete in round two.
“I think mentally we’ve got one over on them definitely,” said Butcher. “100 per cent. We’re full of confidence. We had nine men at one stage and we’re disappointed not to win the game.
“We had nine men and worked our socks off and that takes character. With 11 we can definitely beat them in the final.
“[This result] was for the manager,” he added, with reference to Jackie McNamara following a series of poor results. “We’re working as hard as we can. You saw out there today how together we are and when Nadir [Ciftci] scored we went up to the gaffer. We’re all together in this.”
Celtic goalscorer Leigh Griffiths signalled his apology to the away fans after failing to score with a penalty shortly after half-time. However, he made up for it with the equaliser with twenty minutes to go.
“I had the chance to get us back in with the penalty but I’ve missed it, although I managed to pick myself back up with the header,” said Griffiths, who then contemplated the semi-final draw that paired either Celtic or United with Inverness Caledonian Thistle or Raith Rovers.
“It will be a tough game at Hampden against Inverness or Raith” he said. “They will make it hard for us but that’s if we get through by finishing the job at Parkhead. Dundee United will make it tough for us just like St Johnstone did the other night.”
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