Dundee United 0 - 0 Ross County: County now unbeaten in 40 games
YOU can schedule games for whichever day of the week you want, but the same rule seems to apply: you will never beat Ross County.
The Highlanders racked up a 40th game unbeaten in the league at Tannadice, as another Friday night experiment delivered few goals and only one major talking point. Just who can overcome this phenomenally hard-working team?
The draw was not quite enough to take Ross County to the top of the Scottish Premier League for the first time in their history. However, Derek Adams’ side were content with the draw that puts them on the eight point mark, just one point behind leaders Motherwell. United, too, join them there, although there was rather less jubilation on their part as more points were dropped following such a promising start to the season. For the third time in a week, Dundee United manager Peter Houston, who also assists Craig Levein with Scotland, heard jeers ring out at the end of a game.
Ross County, though, are gradually becoming the story of the season. In contrast to Scotland, they are highlighting how to make the best of themselves and left Tannadice with a deserved draw. Derek Adams’ side began brightly and might even have gone ahead in the first minute after winning an early corner. McMenamin’s header, however, hit the bar and the ball went over rather than rebound back out. It was an early statement of intent and one which indicated that the side had not come down merely to maintain their unbeaten run courtesy of a draw. Rather, they had designs on a win.
They were being helped in this aim by some uncharacteristically nervous defending by United. Right back Keith Watson put his own ‘keeper under pressure with a back pass. Radoslaw Cierzniak mis-kicked the ball horribly, and though McMenamin got his toe to the ball in an effort to inflict maximum damage his effort ran out of play, with the fretting ‘keeper having at least managed to bring some pressure to bear on the striker. The Pole looked jittery all evening and was guilty of making rash decisions on more than one occasion.
Although both sides knew they could ascend the summit with a win, they had their own different agendas. Ross County were desperate to extend their unbeaten run to the 40 game mark. United, meanwhile, hoped to arrest a mini-slump after the loss of four points in their last two outings since a 3-0 derby win over neighbours Dundee, one that saw them briefly become league leaders. These fixtures had both taken place away from home so it was a relief for United to be able to perform at home for the first time since the derby victory.
Even though he had to contend with the loss of Gary Mackay-Steven due to injury, these were rather less fraught circumstances for Houston when compared with his duties with Scotland on Tuesday night at Hampden Park. However, there was still an expectant home crowd to try and satisfy. No United fan could say they were enjoying much in the way of thrills from the way their side started. Few would have put their hands up for Friday night football if asked to rate the experiment.
It was, though, a young United side. Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Dow both started in midfield and when they found their feet, the home team began to look more dangerous. Johnny Russell embarked on one jinking run though his shot was compromised by the tight angle. Michael Fraser saved the effort with a foot and Russell could only send the rebound into the side netting. Fraser was then forced to move smartly when tipping a Michael Gardyne shot away.
Opportunities, though, were few and far between, and grew rarer as half-time approached. Ross County were doing little to alter the impression that they are a hard team to break down. Grant Munro and Scott Boyd made sure the back four remained tight. The equally experienced Ross Tokely and Marc Fitzpatrick made up a resolute back four. Not that Ross County were intent to absorb the pressure. They began the second-half like they had done the opening 45 minutes by creating the better chances.
Iain Vigurs’ delivery from the left caused United problems and on one occasion might have reaped reward for the visitors if only McMenamin been more decisive when making a run to the front post. Instead, he allowed the ball to drift by him.
United again began to settle after the interruption of half-time and in Dow they had one of the livelier performers. His advance into the box drew a last-gasp challenge from Tokely and when referee Willie Collum blew his whistle, he raised the biggest cheer of the night. It had looked as though he was also pointing towards the spot, but in actual fact he had awarded only a bye-kick, much to the relief of the visiting fans. They had made the long journey south from Dingwall in the hope that they might see their side reach the top of the SPL.
Dundee United: Cierzniak, Dillon, McLean, Gunning, Watson, Flood, Armstrong, Rankin, Gardyne, Russell, Dow (Gauld 83). Subs not used: Banks, Douglas, Ryan, Millar, Hilson, Robertson.
Ross County: Fraser, Tokely (Kovacevic 74), Munro, Boyd, Fitzpatrick, Quinn, Kettlewell, Brittain, Vigurs, McMenamin (Morrow 61), Glen (Scott 80). Subs not used: Brown, Ross, Dingwall, Porritt.