Dundee United 2 - 1 Morton: Firepower sees Arabs go second

Dundee United's James Keatings (left) celebrates his opening goal with Paul McMullan (centre) and Scott McDonald. Picture: SNS/Paul Devlin
Dundee United's James Keatings (left) celebrates his opening goal with Paul McMullan (centre) and Scott McDonald. Picture: SNS/Paul Devlin
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Ray McKinnon, the Dundee United manager, watched strikers Scott McDonald and James Keatings finally end Morton’s resistance, before predicting they’ll become a prolific partnership.

McDonald’s late winner saw off Jim Duffy’s valiant Morton side after substitute Robert McHugh’s 75th minute equaliser had cancelled out Keating’s 65th minute opener in this Tannadice encounter.

Both summer signings, the duo ushered United into second position in the table and to within two points of league leaders Dunfermline as they duly ended a three-game winless run in the Championship.

And manager McKinnon insists his evolving front pairing have all the necessary attributes to wreak havoc on opposition defences in the weeks ahead.

“It was nice to have Keatings and McDonald up front together for the first time,” said McKinnon afterwards. “I thought they were great. I think we could see a real partnership building there in the coming weeks and they’ll get better.

“It was a really good performance overall and three great points. I thought we looked really good middle to front. We could have scored a lot more goals to put ourselves out of sight but I’m still really pleased.”

Morton arrived on Tayside sitting second-top on goal difference but were facing a United team intent on returning to winning ways.

It was the Taysiders indeed who had the first real effort on goal midway through the first-half when winger Paul McMullan cut inside and unleashed a 22-yard shot which Ton keeper Derek Gaston did well to parry wide.

But, in 27 minutes, they suffered a blow as full-back Lewis Toshney was forced to go off suffering from an ankle injury and he was replaced by Stewart Murdoch.

Soon after, they came close again when Fraser Fyvie shot from fully 30-yards and his effort narrowly flashed past Gaston’s left-hand post.

It was becoming all United. Just after the half-hour mark, they threatened with McMullan putting James Keatings clean through and his shot from ten yards went just inches wide of the target.

Keatings was involved again immediately after as he latched on to McMullan’s cross, only to see his close-range header brilliantly saved by Gaston.

Five minutes before half-time, United almost gifted the visitors a shock lead when Jamie Robson was short with his pass-back to allow Gary Oliver to seize the opportunity, only for home keeper Harry Lewis to race off his line and clear.

Morton threw on McHugh for Jai Quitonogo in an effort to freshen up their attack in 62 minutes, but it was the hosts who went ahead three minutes later. It was a flowing move which involved Billy King and McDonald before McMullan set up Keatings whose low left-foot volley from 12-yards nestled in the corner of the net.

But their lead was short-lived. Ross Forbes’ free-kick deep into the penalty box was missed by the United defence, and Ricki Lamie headed it down for substitute McHugh to stab home from a few yards out.

However, McDonald won it for the hosts with seven minutes remaining. King crossed for Mark Durnan whose header came back off the foot of the post, and former Celtic ace McDonald poked home the rebound.

The Morton manager felt his players couldn’t have given him much more on the day.

“It was tough to take losing a goal after getting back to 1-1 at a place like Tannadice,” said Duffy. “It’s hard on the players. Their commitment was amazing but errors cost us. We’ve gone toe-to-toe with United which augurs well for the future.”