If Csaba Laszlo is the man to save Dundee United then he showed up just in time to witness their latest nadir as the reigning Irn-Bru Cup champions threw away a second half lead to part-time Northern Irish side Crusaders.
It’s a wonder it took United so long to exit the lower league competition since their 2016 relegation from the top flight, seeing as they’ve barely hidden their resentment at being a part of it in the first place.
The hosts, who admittedly fielded a largely second-string side, looked on course to march towards the semi-finals for the second season in succession when Fraser Fyvie’s incongruous 30-yard screamer gave them the lead. However, a combination of wasteful finishing and dreadful defending saw them eliminated when substitute Gavin Whyte added to Dave Cushley’s equaliser in stoppage time.
“It’s better that we lost this game than lose next week against Falkirk,” said Laszlo of his first match. “But I wanted to see more competitiveness from the fringe players.
“I’m angry because we would have had a great chance to win in extra-time. We were the better team in the second half. Just for the last couple of minutes we needed to keep our shape. We need more cleverness.”
It was such a tepid first half that the United faithful couldn’t even generate the energy required to boo when the referee finally brought the period to an end. The visitors were the better side, organised in defence and playing with an intensity above their hosts.
Jordan Forsythe had a couple of shooting opportunities blocked by last-ditch tackles from Paul Quinn, while Cushley should have done better after robbing Fyvie and advancing on the goalkeeper. He opted to try and chip Deniz Mehmet and succeeded only in clipping the ball into the keeper’s arms. A James Keatings strike from 25 yards that curled past the post was all the home side could muster.
United stepped up their efforts after the break following the introduction of Billy King. The winger added some much needed drive and enthusiasm and would play a part in the goal. Charging to the edge of the box, he decided to withdraw and pass for Fyvie. Given space, the midfielder unleashed a terrific shot into the top corner.
The home side can’t say they weren’t warned prior to the equaliser. A breakaway saw Jamie Glackin fail to take advantage of a two-on-one with the last defender, but the forward made up for it with a inswinging corner which found Cushley completely on his own to head home from six yards.
Patrick N’Koyi and William Edjenguele both passed up chances inside the six-yard box, while King had two long-range drives from distance: one which slipped through Brian Jensen’s hands and hit the post; the other brought out a top save from the keeper. From the Edjenguele chance, Jensen launched the ball upfield where it was headed on by Jordan Owens for Whyte running in behind. Waiting for it to drop, the sub kept his cool and lashed his finish into the back of the net.