Published: 24th November 2023
Dundee United defender Declan Gallagher is determined to prevent his side from suffering back-to-back cup exits, as the Terrors prepare to embark on a trip to Palmerston for the Scottish Cup Third Round.
A TURN UP FOR THE BOOKS
The Scotland international watched on from the stands with a knock as his teammates succumbed to their first defeat since July.
Visibly off-the-boil from the first whistle, United’s assault on the SPFL Trust Trophy was brought to an end by an energetic Falkirk side invigorated by a rowdy home contingent.
“Something we wanted to do this season was go through the full campaign unbeaten but full credit to Falkirk - they were excellent on the night and we know ourselves we weren’t up to our standards.
“It’s a warning to all the boys, whether they aren’t playing as much as they want to or they’re getting comfortable because they play week-in-week-out - you can’t take anything for granted.
“Especially this season when the aim is to go straight back up, nobody can get complacent.”
4-2 the final score at The Falkirk Stadium, it marked our first defeat in 17 matches. United led for a notable portion of the match thanks to goals from Mathew Cudjoe and Tony Watt, but the hosts would run out deserved winners.
A quick-fire Bairns treble turned the game on its head around the midway point of the second period as they roared back to progress to the Semi-Final.
PRIORITISING THE PURSUIT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE
However, Gallagher insists that despite being irked by the loss of such a remarkable record, perhaps slight comfort can be taken from the fact the blow was delivered in the Challenge Cup rather than the cinch Championship.
“Although we don’t want to be beaten in any game, our main focus is the league so for it to happen in that competition is one we can take on the chin.
“I think it’s an eye-opener for us and something we need to take in our stride to get back to winning ways. “We can’t dwell on it. Thankfully it wasn’t in the league and we haven’t lost any points. We’re not happy about getting beat but we just have to shift the focus onto our next game.”
UP FOR THE SCOTTISH CUP
Despite boasting an impressive senior CV which features experience on the European and International stage, the 32-year-old is yet to progress past the Quarter-Finals.
Gallagher reached the Last Eight with Motherwell in 2021. Current United striker Tony Watt netted a late equaliser at Easter Road to send the tie to extra-time and subsequently a penalty shootout, but the Steelmen agonisingly missed out on a place at Hampden.
Desperate to exorcise his Scottish Cup demons, he continued: “The Scottish Cup is something I’ve never actually had a good run in myself but it’s a competition I’ve always wanted to go far in. It’s something I need to do in my career personally and I’ll have the boys fired up for it.
"Who knows what can happen - look at Inverness last season. If they won the Final they would’ve ended up with European football!”
The Highland outfit became the first second-tier side to reach the showpiece event in the Scottish football calendar since Hibernian and Rangers in 2016.
United’s last Scottish Cup triumph also came at the expense of a Championship side, defeating Ross County in the 2010 Final to claim the trophy for a second time.
Gallagher resumed: “The league is obviously the priority - we’ve never hidden that. But the Scottish Cup is an important tournament. We’ll be going out to win the game on Saturday and, if we get through, we’ll see how far we can go in the competition.
“It’ll be a difficult game - they lost at the weekend like ourselves so they’ll be wanting to bounce back too.”
THE DUMFRIES TASK AT HAND
Saturday’s opponents are enduring a turbulent season, with eight defeats in their last ten matches in all competitions. The Doonhamers boast home advantage in this Third Round clash, but have recorded just one victory at Palmerston so far this term.
However, Marvin Bartley’s side gave Premiership outfit Motherwell a run for their money in the Viaplay Cup Group Stages, as the sides played out an entertaining 3-3 draw back in July.
Reinforcing the fact Queens are a force to be reckoned with, our number 31 added: “They have a good striker in Gavin Reilly who has played in the Premiership and down south - we’ll need to try and keep him quiet.
“Josh Todd in the middle of the park is a really good player as well but we’ve done our homework on them and know exactly what to expect. We’re fully prepared for this game."
The pair highlighted by Gallagher have 16 goal contributions to their name so far this season, with Reilly in particular directly involved in almost half of the Dumfries outfit’s league goals.
'A PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE TO GET THE JOB DONE'
United are also set to undertake their second consecutive match on an artificial surface - our sixth of the 2023/24 campaign overall.
This is just the nature of the Scottish Cup beast according to the centre-half, who insists the mitigating factors are ones that must be taken in a stride when pulling on the tangerine jersey.
“It’s a small, Astro pitch and in these kinds of games all the pressure is on us - sometimes the smaller teams like to play on that. That’s just the kind of pressure you need to take on your shoulders when you are at a club like Dundee United.
“Anything can happen in cup competitions. It's a one-off game and they have nothing to lose so we have to go out there and put in a professional performance to get the job done.”