Robbie Neilson praised new Dundee United signing Peter Pawlett for turning on the style against Morton and quickly promised much more to come from the new fans’ favourite.
Pawlett, below, impressed on his debut only days after signing for Neilson’s promotion hopefuls who put their title effort back on track with this deserved victory.
The 27-year-old winger, who joined from MK Dons, celebrated his first goal in a Tangerine jersey to add to Pavol Safranko’s eighth-minute opener before Bob McHugh gave Jonatan Johansson’s visitors some hope with a 73rd-minute strike.
Neilson showered praise on former Aberdeen and St Johnstone player Pawlett. “Peter’s a quality player,” he said. “That’s the reason I brought him here and chased him so hard. I worked with him down south and you know what you’re going to get from Peter. I think the style of football in the Championship will suit him. His fitness levels dropped after the break but that’s just because of his lack of game-time recently but he’ll get better the fitter he becomes – that’s for sure.”
United, who fielded new signings Pawlett, Calum Butcher, Mark Reynolds and Mark Connolly, were bidding to bounce back from last Friday’s 1-0 defeat by promotion rivals Ayr United, although Morton’s Andrew Dallas had the first chance when his shot was deflected wide by Charlie Seaman.
The hosts soon began to dominate and Pawlett’s curling free-kick was saved by Morton’s on-loan Rangers keeper Robby McCrorie.
A minute later, though, the Tangerines took the lead. Butcher’s shot from Pawlett’s cross was parried by McCrorie, and Slovakian Safranko converted the rebound with a left-foot tap-in.
That breakthrough lifted a huge weight off their shoulders. And in 20 minutes, Pawlett’s header from Callum Booth’s cross was brilliantly saved by McCrorie.
Pawlett was again involved when McCrorie saved his low shot in 28 minutes. But the former Aberdeen and MK Dons man struck seconds later. Nicky Clark slipped him through with a delicate pass and Pawlett calmly slotted under McCrorie.
United let the tempo slip after the break and Morton threw themselves a lifeline in 73 minutes. Substitute Fraser Fyvie passed straight to Greg Kiltie who crossed for McHugh to stab past United keeper Benjamin Siegrist from a few yards out.
“It’s frustrating that it takes a bollocking at half-time to get a few players going,” said Morton manager Johansson. “Some looked like they didn’t want to be on the pitch and couldn’t cope with United.”