No last gasp escape for Dundee United this time. For the second consecutive Saturday the runaway Championship leaders found themselves trailing in a game they were expected to win, but unlike poor Morton who were denied by Laurence Shankland’s last minute equaliser, Arbroath stood firm yesterday to record their first league victory at Tannadice since 1958.
Not even news that United had managed to fend off suitors for the prolific Shankland over the transfer window managed to generate a feelgood atmosphere about the place and there could be few quibbles about Arbroath creating a little bit of history for themselves. For Robbie Neilson it was the unfamiliar taste of defeat on league business but he didn’t make any excuses. “The first half lost us the game,” he reflected. “We were nowhere near the levels we need to be at and gave away a very poor goal. Once you do that it’s an uphill battle against a team like Arbroath who are very well organised.”
If Shankland is having a quiet game someone else has to step up to the plate. United’s cause was not helped in this respect as his chosen strike partner for the day Osman Sow had to be helped from the field to be replaced by Declan Glass after only quarter of an hour. Even allowing for this, the fact is Neilson’s men were sorely lacking creative spark throughout the game.
From the outset Dick Campbell vowed that his street-wise part-timers would give it a go in the Championship. He’s stuck to his word throughout the campaign and, having gone within two minutes of securing victory at this venue last September, he wasn’t going to chuck the blueprint yesterday. They kept the home defence on nervy alert throughout the opening 45 minutes, and deservedly got themselves ahead after 26 minutes when former Dundee starlet Craig Wighton – of all people – got on the end of a low cross to slot past Benjamin Siegrist.
There was an entirely expected upping of the urgency and pace from the hosts after the break, but when it came to shots on target all their grafting proved to be a pretty blunt instrument.
Yet no matter how ineffectually United are playing it’s almost inevitable that Shankland will find a way of sniffing out a chance and sure enough he did, picking up a through ball and finding himself one on one with Derek Gaston. It should have been a routine finish for the man in demand but the visitors’ ’keeper stood his ground.
Delighted Arbroath assistant manager Ian Campbell insisted: “We’ve got a lot more ability than people give us credit for. If you’ve got ability and organisation all you need is the attitude – and our attitude was first class today.”