The Dundee United Football Club Historical Archive. Preserving United History Since 2006.
After meeting only three days previously it was not unnatural that the opening exchanges were cagey. However, it was Motherwell who seized the initiative and piled on the pressure. McCart sent in a pile-driver which was blocked; Arnott shot narrowly past the far post and a delicate chip from Kirk struck the middle of the bar as Motherwell continued to put us under the cash. Billy Thomson pulled off a great save from Davie Cooper and when Motherwell did find a way through Arnott found himself off-side. Darren Jackson broke clear, but shot wide as we gradually fought back after that concentrated spell of pressure. Two goals in as many minutes then completely changed the character of the contest. First of all Jim McInally found himself in space following a Freddy Van Der Hoorn free-kick was cleared to him and he volleyed home his first goal of the season from the edge of the box. Less than a minute later Alex Cleland's cut-back arrived at the feet of Darren Jackson and though he directed his shot into the ground the ball sneaked home just inside the right hand post. Just before half-time McCart had made a surging run forward and shot inches wide, but that was about the sum total of Well's resistance after they had been dealt the body blow of losing those two quick goals. If anything we could have won by even more after the break. Two minutes into the second half miscues by Cleland, Welsh and Nijholt contrived to weave Christian Dailly ati on his own,but he volleyed over. Twelve minutes from the end Darren Jackson turned a Motherwell defender inside out to create an opening, but then sent the ball tamely into Motherwell's arms. Two minutes from time we were unlucky not to add a third. A move down the right, probably our best of the match, involving Ray McKinnon and Darren Jackson ended with Mixu Paatelainen heading Ray McKinnon's cross fractionally over. In the end this was a hard earned victory in which we came back well after surviving Motherwell's early onslaught.
In common with everyone who was present here on Saturday, I am very pleased with the way things have gone so far this season. I don't think there was any question that the better side won on Saturday, but that fact will not make our task any easier this evening as we take on Motherwell for the second time in four days. In actual fact the opposite is true because Motherwell will be desperately anxious to atone for their defeat and prove that they are the better side after both clubs made such encouraging starts to the new season. I am sure that those supporters who cannot make it to our away games will have been surprised to have seen Billy Thomson in goal last weekend instead of Alan Main. As I have already stated in the press, positions must be filled by the men currently at the peak of their form. Alan Main did show tremendous consistency in the second half of last season, but wasn't quite so consistent in the early games this term. When Billy Thomson stepped in at Kilbowie following Alan Main's suspension, he played so well that I felt Billy should continue in goal. I am sure both players will be better for the competition. Alan Main could have become complacent last season, though to his credit he didn't, now it will be good to see how he handles the pressure after his lengthy spell as first choice for the goalkeeper's Jersey. The publicity which has rightly been accorded to the goalscoring feats of Christian Dailly and Darren Jackson has, in my opinion, overshadowed how well another of our young players has done recently. Defender Alex Cleland is far stronger and fitter now and is a far better player for it as his early season form has shown. Obviously we are desperate to win this evening's Skol Cup tie with Motherwell, but if we don't we can reflect on the wealth of young talent we have at Tannadice. We are also fortunate that they are getting invaluable assistance on the park from their more experienced colleagues such as Freddy Van Der Hoorn, Miodrag Krivokapic, Jim Mclnally and Skipper Maurice Malpas. As these notes were being written I received word from the club doctor that Michael O'Neill will be out of action for around eight weeks with a fractured cheek-bone. I just cannot believe how unlucky he and Hamish have been with injuries, especially as both players are the kind managers dream about. Both are so desperately keen to do well that neither requires any motivation to train or play. Yet whilst this pair have had incredibly bad luck with injuries, others on the staff who prefer the easy life never seem to pick up injuries. What makes Michael O'Neill's latest injury so disappointing was the blend which the front three had struck up on Saturday. Michael has fought back well from illness and perhaps I over protected him - Certainly he didn't like missing out on so much action last season. So it is a shame that just as he was getting back in the groove, he finds himself side-lined again. The consolation this time is that as his injury is facial, it will enable him to continue training so all he will be missing is games. I wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to welcoming him back to action as soon as possible.