Had it not been for prolonged and, ultimately, messy contract negotiations, Fraser Fyvie would have been playing Premiership football with Hibernian this season. However, the midfielder appeared on Saturday to be on a one-man mission to ensure his return to the top flight is delayed by no longer than the current campaign.
With the forever predatory Scott McDonald also scoring and a stoic defensive display, despite Mark Durnan and Jamie Robson suffering the effects of a sickness bug, this victory was by no means down to just one man. However, Fyvie’s double – his second a breathtaking half-volley – and his midfield masterclass were instrumental in Dundee United piecing together their best display of the season.
Dunfermline could argue they were enjoying the better of things after a frenetic opening in front of a crowd of more than 7,500 – the third largest in Scotland over the weekend. But, after Fyvie fired in the opening goal, it was the visitors who assumed control, and the former Aberdeen and Hibs playmaker is adamant they cannot afford to dip below Saturday’s high water mark if they are to prevail in an already fierce title battle.
“That’s got to be the standard that we play to now,” admitted Fyvie, who joined United after his procrastination resulted in Hibs removing a contract offer this summer. “Hopefully we’ve put down a marker, as Dunfermline were top of the league and they’re a good side. It’s a marker, in terms of our shape and how we go about the game. I thought we were very professional. So, we can’t go below that line. That’s got to be our performance week-in, week-out. It’s what the manager expects of us.”
Dunfermline had averaged four goals in their home matches but were unusually impotent in attack and United looked likely to make the most of every opportunity as their expensively-assembled squad clicked into gear.
Their opener came ten minutes from the break when Dunfermline lost possession midway inside their own half. In an instant, the visitors had shuffled possession from James Keatings to Paul McMullan and on to the overlapping Robson. When Sean Murdoch beat away the full-back’s powerful shot, Fyvie returned the bouncing rebound into the net.
Eight minutes later, the Pars failed to deal with a Keatings free-kick and McDonald rifled in when William Edjenguele’s challenge left him well placed just six yards out. Billy King then struck the crossbar with a fluffed shot before the interval brought welcome respite for the home side.
However, Fyvie’s magnificent second 13 minutes into the second period, when his half-volley fizzed into the top corner, confirmed United’s win in glorious fashion, despite a late header by substitute Callum Smith offering scant consolation for Dunfermline. “We all know we haven’t played as well as we can,” said Pars captain Callum Morris. “That’s the most disappointing thing. But we’ll bounce back.”