Dundee United 3
Friday 21st February, 19:45
Tannadice Park, Dundee
In the evening’s fourth versus third clash at Tannadice Park, Dundee United continued their recovery from a seven-game winless streak with a commanding 3-1 victory over Motherwell. The Tangerines have now won two on the bounce and have closed the gap to their beaten opponents to six points.
Henri Anier started on the bench for Motherwell after passing a late fitness test, and came on for the final 13 minutes with the scoring having already been completed. His side went into the match with a number of first team regulars missing, prompting boss Stuart McCall to reject it as an excuse for anything less than full commitment.
It was the hosts who started brighter with John Rankin dragging a shot wide of the far post after ‘Well defender Stuart Carswell failed to deal with a cross. United were finding space on the right hand side as they attacked with pace, and Nadir Ciftci was causing problems with his flair and trickery. Andy Robertson was also seeing plenty of the ball, and was unlucky in the 12th minute when he tricked his way into the box but was unable connect with the dropping ball.
Motherwell were struggling to deal with the pace of their opponents and a goal didn’t seem too far away, but when it did come it was all their own undoing. A poor attempt at a back-pass by defender Shaun Hutchinson in the 21st minute was pounced upon by Ryan Dow, who bore down on the keeper before slotting coolly into the back of the net to give Dundee United a deserved lead.
The goal gave a little spark to Motherwell, who had been off the pace until that point, and they had half a chance to respond soon after. John Sutton’s flicked header found Iain Vigurs, who took a touch but saw his shot blocked. Vigurs had begun to see a little more of the ball as the visitors started to come back into the game, but it was United who had the next chance. Ryan Dow broke down the right-hand side and pulled the ball back for Stuart Armstrong, whose shot was blocked into the path of Ciftci, who, in turn, was also denied.
If United were rueing the missed opportunity it was only for a short time, as they doubled their lead four minutes before the break. A corner on the left found Ciftci, again involved, lurking on the six-yard line and his flicked header found Gavin Gunning who easily poked home at the post from close range, giving his side a two goal advantage. It was a fair reflection of the first half and Motherwell were in trouble.
Their mood didn’t improve when Gunning appeared to barge Vigurs over in the penalty box having made no attempt to get the ball. Neither the referee nor the linesman saw enough to award a penalty and the half time whistle brought a one-sided first half to a close. In stark contrast to their opponents, Motherwell looked devoid of ideas and rushed in possession. Dundee’s energy and movement was too much for them and they needed the half time break to regroup.
If ‘Well boss Stuart McCall had indeed been looking forward to getting his side into the changing rooms at half time for some respite, he will certainly have wished his side had stayed there as they went 3-0 down within a minute of the restart. United went straight on the attack from the whistle and won a free kick on the edge of the box, which Gavin Gunning struck home thanks to a deflection off James McFadden, who might feel he could have put more of his anatomy in the way of the ball.
It looked game over for Motherwell as United were well in control and any hopes of a comeback seemed ludicrous, which made it all the more surprising when Ciftci felt the need to lead with his arm when jumping to block a 56th minute McFadden free kick, giving the referee no choice but to award a penalty. A lifeline for the visitors. John Sutton calmly dispatched the spot kick and dragged Motherwell back into the game.
The goal finally seemed to settle them and they began to retain the ball a little better. Going into the game they had managed 16 points from losing positions this season, showing what they were capable of. This was a statistic that was to be unmoved, however, as Dundee still had their cushion and adequately dealt with what was thrown at them.
Estonian striker Henri Anier was introduced in the 77th minute to try and spark a final attempt at a Motherwell comeback, but it was United who had the better of the closing chances; Gary Mackay-Steven and the lively Ciftci spurning opportunities to extend the lead. Anier had a half chance to further reduce the arrears for the visitors three minutes from time, but his header from a goalmouth scramble sailed harmlessly wide.
The work done by the hosts in the first 50 minutes was enough to see them home and the three points deservedly stayed on Tayside. Armstrong, Robertson and Ciftci all impressed and Dundee United’s revival looks to be contrasting with a dip in form for Motherwell, who have now only managed one win in their last five league games.
Motherwell remain a point behind Aberdeen, who occupy second place, and the now six-point cushion over Dundee United in fourth is coupled with a game in hand. A win would have seen them leapfrog Aberdeen into second place but they may now have to look over their shoulders a little closer following this continuation of both side’s recent form.
Henri Anier transfer story you find it here.