Published: 13th October 2018
United were 2-1 victors over Partick Thistle in their first game under Robbie Neilson, with a confident display that the narrow score line barely reflects.
By Stuart Norris
In a match symptomatic of the trials and tribulations of Championship football, managerless Partick Thistle took on Dundee United with new manager Robbie Neilson taking charge for the first time. Such is the tightness of this league, only two points separated the two teams prior to kick off, with United in 4th and Thistle in 8th place. Plenty at stake, then, as the two teams kicked off at a damp, dreich, Firhill Stadium.
After some early Thistle possession, McMullan had the first meaningful shot after a sweeping United move. McMullan was clearly in the mood and after generating space fired another drive in after 8 minutes, this time saved by ex-United stopper Bell.
United almost took the lead in 14 minutes when an excellent interchange inside the Thistle box led to Booth pulling out a great save from Bell. From the resulting corner Safranko had yet another shot saved by Bell. United were playing some great football at this stage and completely dominating possession.
On 23 minutes McGinty was lucky to escape yellow after a bad tackle on McMullan. However one minute later, the in-form McMullan was taken out again, this time by Slater who deservedly received a yellow card.
Safranko perhaps should have had United ahead after 27 minutes. After winning possession just outside the box, he had time to pick his spot but fired just wide of Bell’s right hand post. However, this paled in comparison to McMullan’s chance a minute later, when he, with only Bell to beat, struck the post, with Aird then firing well over from the rebound.
Safranko did have the ball in the net on 32 minutes with a well taken header, but was correctly adjudged offside.
United were now regularly slicing through the Thistle defence and won their first corner when McMullan’s cross was cut out. From the corner, a powerful Frans header was brilliantly saved by Bell at his bottom right corner.
Thistle had a rare period of pressure toward the end of the half but United looked solid.
On 45 minutes United took the lead their first half dominance deserved. After a sweeping move from United, a powerful run and cross by Sam Stanton was sweetly volleyed home into the bottom corner by Fraser Aird.
Referee Collum blew for half time seconds later, with United and the large travelling support relieved they had something to show for a first half where the intensity, crisp passing and chance generation must have been pleasing for new boss Neilson.
The second half got under way in blistering fashion, with United striking the woodwork in the first minute. Thistle then showed some intent, creating their own chance seconds after, but Siegrist smothered the danger. United were not to be denied, however, and were 2-0 up on 48 minutes. McMullan’s tenacity won the ball in midfield, before driving forward and unleashing a shot from an angle just outside the box, which Bell could only parry into the path of Safranko, who lashed the ball into the net.
United had a let off in 63 minutes when Elliott found space on the right and drove a dangerous cross across the 6 yard box which incredibly missed everyone, when a touch by defender or attacker would have resulted in a certain goal. Thistle forced another chance minutes later when Storey headed just wide.
As the game approached the final quarter, the intensity of United’s game had dropped a touch and, following some slack play on 77 minutes, Thistle were back in the game. Erskine won possession on the half way line and Quitongo out-muscled Bouhenna to break clear and slip the ball under Siegrist.
Thistle’s tails were now up and were having their best period of the game, with United’s defending ever more frantic and camped with their own half. So, it was with mighty relief and a huge cheer from almost 1000 Arabs, when the referee blew for full time and a very much deserved 2-1 victory.
In summary, United were so much in control for most of this match that anything other than 3 points would have been a travesty. In the end, though, after Thistle came back into the game, some resolute defending was required to ensure the points returned to Tannadice. There will be much for new boss Robbie Neilson to ponder as he assesses his new charges, but the quality of football, especially in the first half will have given him hope for the promotion challenge ahead.
Man of the Match: There were many very good performances on the day, but from kick off to the final whistle, Paul McMullan harried, probed and drove forward with purpose, with his assist to the second goal proving decisive. An excellent performance.
Bell, Elliot, Penrice, Keown, McGinty, Spittal (McCarthy), Bannigan, Doolan (Quitongo), Erskine, Slater, Storey (Mbuuyl-Mutombo) Subs Sneddon, Melbourne, Wilson, Ntambwe
Siegrist, Booth, Frans, McMullan, Fyvie (Barton), King (Clark), Stanton, Safranko, Bouhenna, Aird (Curran) Watson
Subs Rakovan, Robson, Rabitisch, Loemba