Dundee United left with no margin error now - in Viaplay Cup or with their raging fans

Dundee United's Ross Docherty looks dejected at full time following the surprise 1-0 defeat by Spartans.Dundee United's Ross Docherty looks dejected at full time following the surprise 1-0 defeat by Spartans.
Dundee United's Ross Docherty looks dejected at full time following the surprise 1-0 defeat by Spartans.
Even at this early stage of the season, Dundee United’s shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of Spartans leaves them no margin for error. Not if they want to progress from their Viaplay Cup group and salvage any goodwill from the support.

Booed off the pitch by a crowd of fulminating fans at Ainslie Park, after Blair Henderson notched the winning goal for the home side and Blair Carswell saved a Tony Watt penalty to leave the Tayside team bottom of Group B, the Tannadice captain Ross Docherty refused to sidestep the criticism but insisted there is still time to regroup and redeem themselves.

“The only positive is that it’s early [in the season],” said Docherty. “The first 10-15 minutes killed us because when you come here and go a goal down, it’s a mountain to climb. We got ourselves back in it, started creating, and got a penalty. If that goes in – not to blame the penalty miss – it’s maybe a different game. But we missed another couple of chances after that and, if one of those go in, then we probably have momentum and perhaps go and win the game. But credit to Spartans, they were good and the goalie was outstanding.”

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Looking to leave the disappointments of last season behind them and give themselves and the fans cause for optimism, it was an inauspicious start to the new campaign. The last time both teams kicked a ball, one was a Premiership side, one was a fifth tier Lowland League outfit but the gap has closed in the interim and the SPFL newcomers reminded Jim Goodwin’s men that it is not going to be easy to escape their past.

“That result is unacceptable for this club but it’s better to happen now when we can put it to bed and still potentially get out of the group,” continued Docherty. “We are playing Thistle next – my old club – who will be well up for it. They obviously got a draw and won the bonus point on penalties [against Peterhead]. It is up to us to put it right. We can take some positives from the way we finished the game but we need to be a lot better!”

Facing Thistle on Tuesday night at Tannadice, there is the opportunity for a quick reset but greater creativity will be required. “We know it will be hard because teams will sit in and defend, but we have to find ways to break that down,” said Docherty. “Until around the 60-minute mark, we were really poor at that. We created some chances after that and, looking towards the end of the game, we can be happier with that side of the game while knowing that we need to be better.”

And, as the newly-appointed captain, he is happy to take on that responsibility. “It’s a huge honour to captain this club and I’m hoping that me, and the other leaders in there, can guide this team,” added the 30-year-old. “We have a lot of really promising young players and it’s about getting the best out of everyone. We can sit there and slaughter each other all day but it means nothing if we don’t put it right on Tuesday. And then the game after that, and after that; until this club is back to where it needs to be.”