Dundee United travelled north to Aviemore recently, and this victory surely swells belief that they can reach the summit of the Championship.
Csaba Laszlo’s side climbed to third place courtesy of two Paul Watson headers in either half and Craig Curran’s late clincher, as Partick Thistle, with just one league win from three, had only substitute Chris Erskine’s late consolation to show for an abject afternoon.
“I have to give the boys so much credit for defeating a team who will be challenging for promotion as the season progresses,” said Laszlo afterwards.
United’s players, inactive last weekend after an early exit from the Betfred Cup, had instead travelled to the Highlands for a “team-bonding” exercise.
For the visitors, Craig Slater returned to Tayside after a frustrating spell on loan with United towards the end of last season, hit by a combination of injury and lack of game-time.
The former Colchester United forward had a point to prove having joined Thistle earlier in the summer but his team-mates surprisingly lacked the kind of drive needed to seal a route back to the top-flight.
United were aided somewhat in six minutes when Thomas O’Ware, Thistle’s commanding central defender, limped off after landing awkwardly. Soon after, the hosts went ahead. Without the aerial prowess of O’Ware to overcome, Fraser Aird’s free-kick into the penalty area picked out Watson who showed admirable awareness to guide a looping header back across Cammy Bell and into the far corner of the net.
Thistle looked petrified in the absence of O’Ware’s calming presence. Their only glimpse of goal came midway through the first-half, but Miles Storey’s half-hearted effort trickled into Matej Rakovan’s arms, before United striker Pavol Safranko saw his header sail just over the bar at the other end.
The pattern remained similar after the break, with the hosts retaining control, although Thistle did threaten on the hour mark as Blair Spittal’s glancing header wasn’t all that far away.
But Watson made sure with 12 minutes remaining, thumping home a header high past Bell from Yannick Loemba’s corner, before Curran rounded things off with a tap-in from Aird’s cut-back.
Erskine did pull one back in injury time when Rakovan had spilled, leading to a close-range finish, but that did nothing to improve the mood of Alan Archibald, their manager.
“Two set-plays killed us and you can’t afford to do that coming to a place like Tannadice,” he admitted afterwards.