Doubts have been expressed over Dundee United’s ability to get the best from their expensively built squad this season, but they clicked together impressively to swat aside pre-match league leaders Dunfermline with a display full of clinical finishing and defensive solidity.
At the heart of the victory and the Tangerines’ best performance of the season was Fraser Fyvie. The former Aberdeen and Hibernian midfielder netted a magnificent double but his importance to the Tannadice outfit went way beyond his first goals for the club. The 24-year-old was a calming presence on the ball and a catalyst for the razor-sharp counter-attacking that paid off handsomely for the visitors.
The 24-year-old drove in a superb opener ten minutes from the interval, with Scott McDonald doubling United’s advantage eight minutes later. When Fyvie speared in a sensational third 13 minutes after half-time the points were already secured and a late header from Dunfermline substitute Callum Smith proved no more than a consolation.
“I’ve seen an improvement in the players and the team, and I thought the boys were excellent,” beamed United manager Ray McKinnon. “I think that’s the best of the season and we could have scored a few more goals. There were lots and lots of positives.
“That’s the Fraser Fyvie we all know. It’s taken about six games to get him there and he’s been excellent recently. He had to get his fitness in games and now he’s there, and that’s the quality player he is. His second was outstanding, it’ll probably be the goal of the season.”
The victory and the margin of it was made all the more remarkable given the virus that struck the Tannadice squad ahead of kick-off.
“A lot of credit goes to the boys today,” explained McKinnon. “We had a sickness bug coming into the game and Stewart Murdoch was ill, he was vomiting pre-match.
“A few players had it during the week and Jamie Robson and Mark Durnan came down with it on Friday night. Those two played today with that and they were poorly, so it was a great performance.”
Only one can reach the promised land of the Premiership automatically, but both these clubs feel they could be playing top-flight football next season. This was a glimpse into what the pair could add if they do make the step up, and it was breathless stuff. An impressive and noisy crowd of 7,585 packed themselves into East End Park and there was no doubt who enjoyed a remarkable 90 minutes the most.
Free-scoring Dunfermline have got used to blowing visitors away this season, with early goals a regular feature. However, here they were two goals adrift at half-time and three within the hour mark. They could have claimed United’s opener came against the run of play, but by the end they were a distant second best.
Fyvie fired in the opener ten minutes from the interval after Sean Murdoch had batted away a drive from the overlapping Jamie Robson and eight minutes later the predatory McDonald hammered in from close range after a James Keatings free-kick was bundled into his path. Fyvie’s second was simply sensational, the midfielder catching his half-volley sweetly to send it careering it into the top corner. The strike rendered Smith’s counter for the Pars from a deflected Jason Talbot meaningless on an afternoon of joy for the visitors.
“We never played anywhere near as good as we have been and they got the killer first goal,” moaned Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston. “But there’s a long way to go and we know we can play miles better than that.”