Scott McDonald, the inspired substitute, moved Dundee United to within touching distance of the play-offs as he put plucky Brechin City to the sword at Glebe Park last night.
Two-goal hero McDonald proved the difference for Csaba Laszlo’s promotion hopefuls after stepping off the bench to considerable effect to help move United above Dunfermline into third place, just a point behind Livingston.
The former Celtic striker struck a second-half double, with Billy King, substitute Scott Fraser and Bilel Mohsni also on target in a second-half goal blitz.
Laszlo’s side are in a rich vein of form with three wins on the trot and know if Inverness don’t beat Dumbarton tonight they will be guaranteed a place in the end-of-season play-offs.
It was a brisk start from both sides, with the visitors creating their first clear-cut opportunity in ten minutes.
Thomas Mikkelsen released Sam Stanton who, in turn, fed Paul McMullan who saw his low left-foot shot saved by home keeper Graeme Smith.
Then, at the other end, Jordan Sinclair’s cross was met by Dylan Mackin but his header was tipped over the bar by United keeper Deniz Mehmet.
Mikkelsen was proving an aerial threat and in 15 minutes he got on the end of Anthony Ralston’s free-kick, only to see his header held by Smith. Just after midway through the first half, United threatened once more when Jamie Robson’s delicate through pass was latched onto by Stanton, only for the midfielder to see his left-foot effort strike the side-netting. There was a push on to try and break the deadlock before the interval. Grant Gillespie robbed Isaac Layne before setting up McMullan, and the United winger should have done better than curling his effort high over the bar.
Things threatened to get out of control just before the break. Gillespie went in high on Callum Tapping which incensed home boss Darren Dods on the sidelines. But referee Craig Charleston decided to only book the former Hamilton man much to the disgust of the hosts.
McDonald was thrown on at the start of the second half for Gillespie and Laszlo’s men finally got their noses in front in 51 minutes. Stanton’s curling cross was headed down by McMullan and McDonald was on hand to show a cool head to tap in from just a few yards.
Then, in 56 minutes, United killed the contest. This time McDonald’s slick pass picked out King who drilled his finish from 12 yards high into the net past helpless Smith.
It was now all United. King had another chance to add to their tally in 72 minutes only to be thwarted by Smith.
However, McDonald wasn’t finished and in 79 minutes his ten-yard volley from Ralston’s cross made it 3-0, before Fraser hit a superb 25-yard free-kick in 81 minutes and Mohsni’s header from Fraser’s corner in the dying minutes sent the away fans home happy.