Published: 26th October 2019
A clinical first half display against Dunfermline gives United a three point lead at the top of the Championship after seeing off Dunfermline by two goals to nil.
By Gordon Aitchison
Robbie Neilson made three changes from the side that lost at Dumfries. Jamie Robson, Nicky Clark, Peter Pawlett were all in the starting line up with Watson, Appéré and Stanton all dropping out of the team that lost heavily at Palmerston last time out.
Dunfermline’s only change from the team which defeated Ayr United the previous week saw Kevin Nisbet dropping to the bench with Andy Ryan coming in.
After a fairly quiet opening period, United scored with their first foray into the Pars penalty area on nine minutes. An audacious cross field ball by Nicky Clark found Liam Smith, who then fed McMullan whose cross was fumbled by Dunfermline keeper Cameron Gill. Clark retrieved the ball and drilled in a cross which that man Shankland fired home. Minutes later Ryan had Benji Siegrist stretching to push a looping header over the bar.
On sixteen minutes, Liam Smith was cautioned for a strong, but fair looking challenge on Turner. Impressive play between Pawlett and Robson almost gave the returning full-back a clear view of goal, but Cochrane’s late intervention averted the danger.
A defensive error by United let Dow in from the right, his cross found Cochrane by way of Ryan, but the midfielder fired well over. A foul on Ian Harkes just outside the area towards the half-hour mark resulted in United doubling their lead, Nicky Clark’s curling free-kick wrong-footing Gill.
Robson belied his recent absence through injury in 38 minutes with a fantastic recovery challenge on Dow. From the resultant corner, Ryan's wayward effort found the top tier of the Eddie Thompson Stand much to the amusement of all Arabs. Fantastic play by United involving seven outfield players resulted in a driven cross by Liam Smith which McMullan just couldn’t stretch sufficiently to get a final touch. Shankland, played in by Pawlett, had the final chance of the half, but his effort was deflected to safety by Ashcroft.
An injury to Lewis Martin forced Dunfermline to replace him with Daniel Devine at the start of the second half. And two minutes into it, Calum Butcher tried his luck from 25 yards but his effort sailed just over the bar. Encouraged by this, it took a last ditch interception from Ashcroft to stop the United anchor man running clear through on goal after impressive defensive work from McMullan.
Siegrist was smartly off his line to deny Dow a clear shot on goal after a lovely pass through from Harry Cochrane. Nesbit replaced Cochrane just after the hour mark to add greater attacking threat. Pawlett then did well to win possession deep down the left side and his driven cross was met by Clark, but a fantastic effort by Ashcroft saved a certain killer goal for United. The same Dunfermline player then had United fans’ hearts in their mouths as he struck a speculative effort goal ward with Siegrist off his line, but the effort was high and wide.
As the game reached the final quarter, Dunfermline were posing the United defence more and more issues and had Nesbit had a little more composure with his effort they could have got back in the game - but his right footed attempt hit the ground and bounced harmlessly over the bar. Appéré replaced Peter Pawlett on sixty-eight minutes as United looked to change the one-way traffic towards the United goal. Andy Ryan cracked a shot off the United bar with fifteen minutes remaining following clever play from Nesbit.
King replaced Clark as United looked to take back control of the midfield. On eighty minutes Shankland set up Harkes, but his left-footed effort from 20 yards was well wide of the target.
Despite a lot of effort from Dunfermline in the closing stages, they didn’t really have any serious efforts to test Siegrist.
Man of the match: Nicky Clark, an assist and a fantastic free kick is enough to win the MOM award this week. However, Butcher was assured and the returning Robson were both impressive.
United: Siegrist, L. Smith, Brown, Reynolds ©, Robson, McMullan, Butcher (C Smith 90+2), Harkes, Pawlett (Appéré 69), Clark (King 79), Shankland.
Subs not used: Deniz, Spörle, Stanton, Watson.
Dunfermline Athletic: Gill, Comrie, Ashcroft, Martin (Devine 46), Edwards, Dow, Paton ©, Cochrane (Nesbit 61), Turner (McGill 87), Kiltie, Ryan.
Subs not used: Scully (GK), Beadling, Morrison, Coley.
Referee: Steven Reid
Assistants: Graeme Stewart & Ross Anderson
United: L Smith
Dunfermline Athletic: Ashcroft
Red Cards: None.
Crowd: 7682 (Visiting support 569)
Possession: United: 45% Dunfermline Athletic: 55%
Shots: United: 6 Dunfermline Athletic: 11
Shots on Target: United: 2 Dunfermline Athletic: 3
Corners: United: 0 Dunfermline Athletic: 5
Fouls: United: 13 Dunfermline Athletic: 15