Lawrence Shankland, Dundee United’s prolific striker, overcame Arbroath with a dramatic late brace and believes they can now handle the pressure of being favourites for the title.
Shankland was the hero for Robbie Neilson’s hopefuls with goals in the 88th and 92nd minute to deflate part-time Arbroath who were on the verge of victory thanks to Luke Donnelly’s 52nd minute winner.
The 24-year-old striker took his early-season tally to 12 goals in only 11 games to keep them top of the table above Ayr United on goal difference.
Former Ayr hitman Shankland left Dick Campbell’s newly-promoted visitors distraught and believes United proved they are ready to cope with the expectation associated with being so widely tipped to become champions.
“There was a lot of pressure on us because we were expected to win this game at home but it proved difficult,” said Shankland, pictured. “It’s tough when the crowd are getting on your back.
“When you’re passing the ball back it’s not because you want to, you’re just doing it to try to work something but the fans don’t see it that way.
“But I think we showed the character today that we can handle it when there is pressure and expectation.”
Arbroath were hoping for another Tayside triumph having pulled off a shock two weeks earlier in the Challenge Cup. Former Dundee star Bobby Linn netted the decisive penalty in a nail-biting shoot-out after the tie had finished goalless.
Meanwhile the Lichties had the incentive of knowing that victory would push them to within a point of the Tangerines.
It was a sticky start from both sides, and it took until the 29th minute for the hosts to threaten when Louis Appere headed just wide from Peter Pawlett’s corner.
However, the visitors surged ahead in 52 minutes. Linn worked his magic wide on the left and his cross was inch-perfect for Donnelly to prod home past Benjamin Siegrist.
A few minutes later, substitute Josh Campbell came within inches of increasing their lead with a thunderous 25-yard drive which cannoned off Siegrist’s far post.
But United struck with only two minutes left. Paul McMullan jinked his way into the final third before threading a neat pass through to Shankland who made no mistake by tucking a precise finish back across Darren Jamieson and into the corner of the net.
Two minutes into injury time, Smith crossed for Shankland to stoop and plant a header from eight yards to send the home crowd wild.