THROUGH the first two weeks of the season, Dundee United have become the perfect example of how much luck can effect the outcome of a football match.
Last weekend they gave a good account of themselves against Aberdeen, only to be defeated by a freak Kenny McLean header. Yesterday they were involved in a tough match that could have gone either way, until one of their opponents stuck the ball in the back of his own net.
That unfortunate soul happened to be Motherwell defender Louis Laing. The centre back was enjoying a solid afternoon before his attempt to cut out Paul Dixon’s low cross resulted in United taking a late lead. The visitors then rubbed salt in the wounds with a second goal deep into stoppage time courtesy of young substitute Simon Murray.
It’s no exaggeration to suggest this tough victory for Dundee United could have a huge bearing on the fortunes of their 2015-16 season. With so many young players filling the side and an abundance of questions regarding the team in the post-Nadir Ciftci era, the last thing United needed was a dismal, confidence-sapping start to the new campaign, particularly with the first Dundee derby of the season coming this Tuesday.
“It was really pleasing. I thought we were unfortunate last weekend with the goal we lost against Aberdeen,” reflected McNamara. “It was disappointing because I didn’t think there was a lot in it. I thought we had the best chance of that game and they get a fortunate goal. But that’s football.
“Today the game could have gone either way, some good saves from each keeper, but fortunately we came out on top.”
It was the hosts who started the brighter of the two sides and dominated the play in the opening 20 minutes. Marvin Johnson had the game’s first chance when he forced visiting goalkeeper Luis Zwick into a full-stretch save in the fourth minute after the winger had found space to curl a shot from the edge of the area.
United, who look timid at the outset, grew into the match as the half wore on and forced Motherwell stopper Connor Ripley into a fine save of his own. The on-loan goalkeeper tipped Scott Fraser’s effort round the post after the ball had rolled out to the youngster outside the area.
The game became more stretched in the second half with three chances coming in a frantic spell just before the hour. United midfielder Charlie Telfer should have done better when slipped into the penalty area by Chris Erskine. The youngster opted to flick his shot first time, hitting the ball at a good height for Ripley to palm away.
A minute later Zwick was called into action at the other end after Scott McDonald’s reverse put Johnson through in a foot race with Dixon. The winger left his man for dead but produced a disappointing finish as his attempted nutmeg was blocked by the legs of the German keeper.
The home side kept up the pressure and missed another glorious chance when Law’s low cross to the back post found Chalmers racing in. The left-sided player, signed from Celtic this summer, seemed to be put off by an imminent collision with Zwick and skied his finish high past the post.
“I felt on the balance of play it was undeserved,” said Motherwell boss Ian Baraclough. “I felt for the players. I thought we were better than last week at Inverness and we’ve nothing to show for it.
“There were chances at both ends and we didn’t take ours. You’ve got to put them away when you’re
on top and we didn’t capitalise. It disappointing but we won’t get too down on it.”
Considering the profligacy at the other end, it was ironic the goal which put United in front came from a Motherwell boot. Laing lay prone on the ground, head in hands, after inadvertently putting the ball past his own keeper, while the stadium announcer oddly credited the goal to Murray.
The remark was just a little premature. Deep into injury time, Motherwell won a corner on the left. Ripley went up for the delivery but soon found himself racing back towards his own goal as substitute Robbie Muirhead led the corner attack. Eventually the ball was worked to Murray who kept his head to slot past the still retreating goalkeeper.
Motherwell: Ripley; Law, McManus, Laing, Hammell; Johnson, Leitch (Clarkson 79), Lasley, Chalmers (Thomas 65); McDonald; Fletcher (Moult 60). Subs not used: Twardzik, Kennedy, Cadden, Ferguson.
Dundee United: Zwick; McGowan, Durnan, Donaldson, Dixon; Souttar, Telfer (Muirhead 70); Erskine (Murray 75), Fraser, Spittal; Bodul (Connolly 72). Subs not used: McCallum, Dillon, Rankin, Lochhead.
Referee: B Madden.