Jim Goodwin hears 'sacked in the morning' chant again as Dundee United throw it away once more
“Sacked in the morning!” taunted the Aberdeen fans, over 3,000 of whom were housed over Goodwin’s shoulder. It was just like old times. Old times meaning five weeks ago, that is, when these same fans were singing the same song. The only difference being Goodwin was the Aberdeen manager then and was duly sacked, a lot sooner than the next morning it turned out. Goodwin will survive to fight another day after this but he knows both he and United are running out of time already.
Oh, this was feisty alright. Police struggled to contain groups of fans intent on trouble outside the ground while a flare thrown from the Aberdeen fans in the Jerry Kerr Stand almost hit Ryan Duncan, one of their own players, following a fine opening goal from Duk. The canister landed maybe a yard from the young Aberdeen midfielder.
More than just barbs were also thrown at Goodwin, who until very recently was one of their own, as Aberdeen recovered from the concession of an unnecessary penalty, which was converted by Jamie McGrath. A pie, some coins and even a Cuppa Juice rained down on Goodwin. But what hurt him more was watching United, not for the first time this season, capitulate having managed to drag themselves back into the game with 17 minutes left.
Jack MacKenzie hauled down Sadat Anaku, who had just come on for United, on the edge of the box. McGrath slammed home the award and it was nothing less than the hosts deserved. Indeed, United will have had designs on securing all three points in what was left of the match. As many as six minutes were added on at the end by referee John Beaton. By then, however, it had already become a lost cause for the hosts.
Two late goals from Ross McCorie, with a fine finish from Leighton Clarkson's cross, and substitute Marley Watkins, with his first touch, condemned United to their seventh straight defeat. It is the first time Aberdeen have won at Tannadice since 2015-16, which was the last time United were relegated from the top flight. Indeed, it is the first time they have even scored here since that March victory seven years ago. The visiting fans milked it. Of course they did.
Goodwin applauded those home fans who had stayed until the bitter end. What a vessel of conflicting emotions he must have been. Yiber Ramadani, another player he brought to Pittodrie, embraced him warmly after the final whistle, as did Graeme Shinnie, the Aberdeen skipper. His former fans continued to taunt him.
Goodwin had made a very deliberate point of applauding them as he emerged from the tunnel to make that eagerly-awaited walk to the home dug out. He did clap the home stands first as he prepared for his second match at Tannadice this season but his first as manager of Dundee United. The last one finished with a 4-0 defeat. He needs to get into the habit of winning here – and fast. United have three more home games before the split. Somehow, they need to start taking chances. They had 24 shots on goal compared to Aberdeen’s nine.
Steven Fletcher should have put them ahead in the opening two minutes after the ball broke invitingly into his path after Jamie McGrath challenged Duk. ‘Keeper Jay Gorter was out well to deflect wide. Fletcher also sent a header straight at Gorter in the second half from Aziz Behich’s cross. Gorter saved from McGarth when he should not have been given an earthly but it was probably too late by then in any case.
It was an interesting experiment to establish just how much influence a new manager can have in two days’ worth of training. Barry Robson questioned the truth of the new manager bounce on the eve of the game. The interim Aberdeen manager has a point. Just ask former Dundee United striker Duncan Ferguson, due back in the city this evening for An Audience With event. He is still waiting for his first win at Forest Green Rovers after six matches.
It can be tough coming into an already struggling side. Goodwin had not hidden from that. He knew the gamble involved, including when it comes to his own reputation.
All seemed to be going almost to plan, except for those missed chances, until Ryan Edwards’ attempted clearance bashed off Duk, who proceeded to dance through the United defence before putting Aberdeen in front after 56 minutes with a cute backheel.
Goodwin had sought to keep it simple. For a start, he seemed to calculate that the best way to secure a positive result was to get the best players on the pitch. Kieran Freeman came back in, as did Scott McMann. United switched to a back five. As notable was Goodwin’s decision to keep faith with experienced defenders Charlie Mulgrew and Edwards, who were heavily criticised after last weekend’s 4-0 defeat to Ross County.
There was also a recall for goalkeeper Mark Birighetti, who endured such an afternoon to forget on the last occasion he played at Tannadice. It was a real test of nerve as he took his place in front of the Eddie Thompson stand, the same end where he was culpable for both of Stevie May’s goals in the ruinous 2-1 defeat to St Johnstone two weekends ago. He survived without too many alarming moments, although he perhaps showed a little much of his far corner to Watkins, who took full advantage by steering the ball into the net with seven minutes left to secure the points.
Aberdeen notably failed to put the Australian under the kind of pressure that might have seen him succumb to the jitters but it did not matter in the end.
Goodwin and United’s aim is still very simple: stop the rot. Wednesday’s rearranged trip to Livingston, their game in hand and already hugely significant, now assumes the importance of a cup final.
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