Jack Ross rues 'anomaly' that cost 'conscientious' Ian Harkes a red card

Jack Ross has refused to criticise Ian Harkes after the Dundee United midfielder’s red card left his team short and susceptible to a late Kilmarnock equaliser.

United seemed in control of the second-half, leading through Dylan Levitt’s powerful opener two minutes before the break but two yellow cards – the first for prodding the airborne ball away from Killie goalkeeper Sam Walker as he lined up a long punt upfield – saw the American sent off.

A midfield foul on Liam Donnelly amounted to a second caution from Willie Collum and piled pressure on his United team-mates for the remaining 20 minutes, when Ash Taylor took full advantage to secure a point for the home side on their return to the top flight.

“I’ve not seen the second one back yet so I can’t say if it was deserved,” Ross admitted. “The first one is, by the letter of the law, a caution. It’s a bit of an anomaly as people would say the ball was in play when he throws it out his hands but it is a cautionable offence.

"Ian is a smart guy. He’s not done it believing he would get a caution. He’s really conscientious and honest in what he does.

"I don’t mind mistakes as long as players are authentic in what they do and I believe I have that with this group.”

Ross saw his team weather a first-half storm from Kilmarnock buoyed by a pre-match flag-raising ceremony but took the lead through Levitt’s strike, crafted by a Steven Fletcher backheel. Fletcher led the line like the experienced figurehead he is and his recruitment has filled a key role in Ross’ plans at Tannadice.

“Steven’s not played a full game in pre-season so we didn’t know how long we would get him for. But he’s just a good player. I played against him when he was young and was very good.

Dundee United manager Jack Ross. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

“His technical quality has always been really good as has his game intelligence. I’m loathe to say I’m surprised but when you see it first-hand you appreciate it more. His role in the goal was brilliant and then Dylan is someone who also has real quality.

"We’ve been trying to add depth of quality to the group and we feel we’re getting there.”

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Dundee United's Ian Harkes leaves the field after being sent off against Kilmarnock. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
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