A 37th-minute goal from Dylan Levitt gave fourth-placed United the win at Tannadice and moved them four points clear of the Steelmen in the cinch Premiership with three games remaining in the European race.
“This was definitely one of the first games that we said 'that's a must-win game' to maintain fourth position and heighten the chances of us getting that European spot,” said Courts.
“So I’m delighted today for a couple of different reasons – clean sheet, I thought we were really controlled after we went in front and we played some lovely stuff at times. And on top of that we started with three academy graduates. [Defender] Lewis Neilson at 18-years-old had his first victory in a tangerine shirt.”
Courts was forced to play veteran defender Charlie Mulgrew in midfield due to injuries to Kevin McDonald, Ian Harkes and Peter Pawlett, but the ex-Celtic player put in a fine display despite picking up a knock to his calf.
“Charlie at 37-years-old, I think the last time he played central midfield was probably for Scotland five or six years ago,” said Courts. “It was a bit of a calculated risk. It's where we are at with the availability of players at the moment. Sometimes actually having fewer players makes the decision a bit easier. Even at times before the game where it might seem it's almost like a bit of a tombola, everything we do is calculated here. I think he gave us real balance and a real measured performance and his experience was a part of the reason.
“I did worry when he went down and even more so because he was actually struggling with his hamstring but he asked to stay on. We asked him to be quite controlled and he did that. Him and Dylan really held the middle of the park well and controlled large parts of the game. Motherwell were still dangerous on the counter-attack and when they were going direct but I was almost happy to accept those moments because it felt like were getting back to being a football team. We played some nice stuff and looked dangerous going down the sides and over the top. I think we just recognised it was a must-win game.”