Dundee United 2-0 Cowdenbeath: N'Koyi brace seals win

Dutch striker Patrick N'Koyi scored twice to allay Dundee United's fears of a potential shock as the Championship leaders began the defence of the Irn Bru Cup with a hard-fought win over League 2 opponents Cowdenbeath.

Patrick N'Koyi celebrates his second goal with Dundee United team-mate and fellow Dutchman Jordie Briels at Tannadice. Picture: SNS
Patrick N'Koyi celebrates his second goal with Dundee United team-mate and fellow Dutchman Jordie Briels at Tannadice. Picture: SNS

Ray McKinnon’s men had fond memories of winning the trophy by getting the better of St Mirren 2-1 at Fir Park back in March, but this first- round Tannadice tie proved something of a struggle until N’Koyi’s timely second-half double within the space of six minutes eased their passage into the next round.

The 27-year-old summer signing chose the perfect time to open his account for his new club with goals in 61 and 67 minutes which proved enough to overcome Billy Brown’s industrious visitors, who’d given a decent account of themselves up until that point, to secure the Championship side’s place in Thursday’s draw.

As expected, United made several changes from the side which edged past Queen of the South in the Championship 2-1 with just ten men a few days earlier.

New signing Paul Quinn made his debut after signing a short-term deal last week, while local lad Scott Allardice came in and there were first starts for young pair Graham Taylor and Logan Chalmers, as well as a debut for Harvey Dailly.

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A few weeks ago, they had thrashed their part-time Fife opponents 4-1 in the Betfred Cup group stages so were strong favourites to progress on the back of two hard-fought league wins over Inverness and Queens.

But it was Brown’s side who threatened to take a surprise lead in just three minutes.

Teenager Ryan Connelly broke clear and, showing confidence beyond his years, he hit a right-foot angled drive which came off the inside of Deniz Mehmet’s far post.

That flurry gave the dark horses some hope. In 20 minutes, Robbie Buchanan found himself right through for the visitors.

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As Mehmet advanced, Buchanan tried to pull the trigger but could only shoot right at the United keeper who was happy to get his body in the way at the expense of a corner.

The hosts were struggling to find their feet although in 30 minutes Scott Fraser’s quickly-taken free-kick found James Keatings whose shot on the turn was saved by former United goalkeeper Joe McGovern.

Soon after, though, it was the sprightly part-timers who went on another attack as Alasdair Smith surged forward before cracking a 25-yard shot which Mehmet was relieved to see flash past his right-hand post. United couldn’t be so lacklustre after the break. Within minutes of the restart, N’Koi met Fraser’s curling free-kick but his downward header was gathered comfortably by 
McGovern.

Then, in 57 minutes, Taylor came within inches of grabbing his first goal for the Taysiders with a dipping shot from inside the box which narrowly cleared McGovern’s far post.

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But they eventually earned the breakthrough in 61 minutes, with N’Koi finishing high into the net after a terrific solo run by Fraserwho ripped open the Beath defence, before cutting back for the former FC Eindhoven forward to beat McGovern.

That gave N’Koyi a thirst for more and he duly added to his tally six minutes later.

This time Willo Flood was the provider with a cross from the left for N’Koyi whose downward header was 
too strong for McGovern to keep out despite his best efforts.

The floodgates threatened to open for the hosts whose next attempt saw Keatings curl a 20-yard effort off the top of the bar.

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From then on, United’s superior fitness began to tell and McGovern did well to prevent them from increasing their lead further.