The Dundee United Football Club Historical Archive. Preserving United History Since 2006.
In a dress rehearsal for the following week's Scottish Cup meeting at Love Street, United faced a high flying St Mirren side on an 11 game unbeaten run, and who were sitting in 2nd place in the table, 5 point behind leaders Celtic. United on the other hand, were sitting in fifth place, five points behind the Buddies, and hoping to claw back some of the five points that separated the two sides. Davie Dodds was out with flu, and Graeme Payne took his place up front.Early chances saw Hamish McAlpine rush 15 yards outside the area to clear from Billy Stark, and Paul Sturrock had a low shot well saved by Billy Thomson. United then had a spell on top, and Richard Gough out-jumped the St Mirren defence to head strongly across goal, by Thomson brought off a good save. Dave Narey then had a long range effort go inches past the post before St Mirren took the lead in the 28th minute. Frank MacAvennie fed Jimmy Bone on the left, and his cross was returned by Stark for Frank McDougall to to net with an all too accurate header. Eamonn Bannon should have done better when he hit a defender with a shot, then McAlpine was out his box once more to clear from McGougall. Billy Kirkwood had a shot saved well by Thomson just before half-time. United's equaliser 13 minutes into the second half came via the penalty spot. Paul Sturrock chased a feeble Mark Fulton pass-back and Billy Thomson pulled him down in the box. The ever-reliable Eamonn Bannon stepped forward to slam the spot-kick home to bring United back into the game. Another slack pass-back to Thomson, this time from ex-United player Jackie Copland, gifted Ralph Milne a chance this time, but the winger failed to capitalise. the visitors had strong appeals for a penalty when Gough downed MacAvennie in the box, but the referee wasn't interested and a draw was probably a fair result in the end.
Straight away let me say how much better our form has been over the last ten days, culminating with that excellent 3-0 win at Easter Road on Monday that ensures a late double date with our visitors today. St. Mirren. After the rusty spell we endured through the first few games since the winter weather relented the form of the team has gradually improved through our last three outings to the stage that the players are now almost at the level achieved in the autumn. The vital factor in that return to form has been the support work done by the midfield players, which was ideally demonstrated by John Holt when scoring the vital opening goal in the second replay against Hibs. But that is only a taste of what we should be aiming for, with defences taking even greater care to make sure the front players are shackled so tightly it's crucial that the midfield arrive regularly and on time. However although the first goal was a telling factor in our victory against Hibs, in my opinion the second goal is always the one that takes the pressure off and allows the players to relax and go on to finish off opponents. To make that situation we must continue to be positive when holding a one goal lead and make the opposition midfield men do the defensive work and that was the error that cost a vital home point against Rangers last Saturday. That midweek win of course ensured that the fixture backlog has contrived to test us with the most taxing programme ever undertaken by the club and in this context, I throw down a direct challenge to the fringe players at the club. There is no way that the men in possession can play through a two games a week schedule on three different competitive fronts and so for any player who is not in the first team but who has ambitions to make a long term future for himself at Tannadice the chance will be there. We are proud that several players in the side have progressed to the stage that International recognition is a regular feature of their season but our chances of continuing our recent habit of winning something each season does not rest only with the established big names. I must be able to introduce new blood when things shade off for any individual, in the knowledge that the line up will not suffer, and the next few weeks will produce the finest chance for every player on the staff to show that they are first team regular material.