Motherwell 0-1 Dundee Utd: Mark Reynolds ends United’s wait for top-flight win

Defender the match-winner as he scores first goal in three years

Dundee United players congratulate Mark Reynolds after the defender scored the only goal of the game at Fir Park. Picture: Steve Welsh/PA
Dundee United players congratulate Mark Reynolds after the defender scored the only goal of the game at Fir Park. Picture: Steve Welsh/PA

In the years that followed, it had to be wondered when Dundee United would again accomplish what they did on 14 May, 2016. A torturous wait was ended at Fir Park yesterday, as the Tannadice club secured a first top-flight victory since they defeated Kilmarnock as an already relegated side on the final day of the 2015-16 season.

A success with a twist – the 52nd minute strike that earned victory came not just from former Motherwell defender Mark Reynolds, but was his first senior goal in a full three years. A triumph of determination, captain Reynolds’ marshalling of the visitors’ defence was central to United being able to repel Motherwell. Yet, the Fir Park men assisted their opponents through dominating possession but failing to find any cutting edge in the final third. Two successive defeats were not what was predicted for a team expected to build on their third place finish last season.

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For Micky Mellon’s men, what was expected was that they would struggle following promotion and the loss of manager Robbie Neilson, and struggle all the more if they could not call on the goal-ravenous Lawrence Shankland. They confounded both those prophecies in Lanarkshire, with the Scotland striker ruled out with a recurring ankle problem that will not prevent him facing Hibernian on Tuesday.

As a result, 33-year-old Reynolds enjoyed a gala day. A weak punch by Motherwell keeper Trevor Carson following a Peter Pawlett corner resulted in the ball finding its way to Luke Bolton. The home defence had not reset when he swung a cross from the right to the back post. Reynolds did the rest by flying in to meet it cleanly and with venom, the ball shooting into the roof of the net from close in. The only downside for the centre-back was the absence of punters to sicken, and savour the moment with.

“It’s my first goal in nearly three years and it’s not something I do often – I’ve only got about 12 goals in my full career – so it’s nice to score and for it to be the matchwinner,” Reynolds said. “I’m Motherwell through and through, born and bred in the town, but it’s nice to come back and score a goal and nobody was here to see it...

“I’ll need to tell everyone to stop coming to games because I obviously don’t score under pressure. My pals all sit in the Motherwell Bois section and give me dog’s abuse. It was actually disappointing because I’d have gone over to celebrate in front of them because they give me absolute pelters and I’m sure I’ll have a few texts but it’s all friendly banter.”

Four points from their first two league games is a fine foundation for Mellon, pictured, to build on, but the United manager knows his team require to exhibit more authority.

“I have managed teams that have come up levels and some of the traits that you see are not unusual. They think the monster in the wardrobe is bigger than it actually is when you open it,” he said. “You maybe saw a wee bit of that, but they grow in confidence as they go along and realise: ‘Well, it’s not really that frightening, is it?’

“That will happen because we have so many players who are at this level for the first time – or haven’t played in it for a long time. It is up to me to take the hits for them, encourage them to play the ball and be Scottish Premiership brave.”

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson sought no excuses, accepting there had been a push that was called by referee Steven McLean before Jordan White headed in three minutes from time.

“Maybe inside I’m angry but I’m dealing with young footballers who are naïve,” said Robinson. “We had lots of possession but no end product. How many times did we have opportunities to put it into the box and do it? Not enough is the answer. It has to be total football and the perfect goal for them. We brought on Jordan White and we have to hit him, change the style and gamble. It’s inexperience and a lack of being streetwise. We need to learn some lessons very quickly and we’ll work on that.”

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