In fairness it was probably slightly better than the average goalless draw - but not much. The fact the end of the first half was more exciting than the previous half hour pretty much sums it up, while the second half was a bit better. However, we had few real chances - most of our opportunities coming from the edge of the box - and that's a bit of a worry. A point was probably a fair outcome and it's not the worst result to have ahead of next week's big game.
With the exception of Jim Goodwin replacing someone in defence it wouldn't be a surprise to see this team starting at Hampden. Thankfully we reverted to Esmael Goncalves and Steven Thompson in attack, Gary Teale and John McGinn in midfield and Paul Dummett in defence. Of the four dropping out Dougie Imrie could probably feel the most aggrieved after scoring against Dundee on Wednesday. Sam Parkin, Lewis Guy and Kenny McLean were all benched, while Lee Mair was out all together through injury. Dundee United had their own injury problems so new signing Rory Boulding was in attack with Stuart Armstrong and Scotland squad member Gary Mackay-Steven offering support.
Conor Newton was booked inside the first minute for a tackle on Richie Ryan, referee John Beaton making a rod for his own back with such an early card. He then turned a loud penalty shout when Goncalves' cross struck Brian McLean's arm. It was a loud shout in as much as our players shouted loudly, but it was probably the correct decision. Graham Carey quickly got himself his own yellow card for a bad tackle on Mackay-Steven but to his credit he managed to avoid getting another booking in the remaining 80 minutes – just! Thompson managed to get his head on the end of a David van Zanten cross but he'd climbed to do so - although he put over anyway - before he just failed to divert a Teale delivery towards goal.
Not a great deal was happening, a rare piece of invention seeing Carey pass to Goncalves and he played a neat ball to McGowan but the playmaker's shot was always going wide. A poor piece of United defending gave Goncalves a chance but after forcing his way into the box McLean was able to delay him pulling the trigger before getting in the way of the shot. McGowan tried to take advantage of an opening that had partly been created by him, McGinn, Thompson and luck but it was an easy save for goalie Radoslaw Cierzniak to make.
Goncalves produced the headed equivalent of a sclaff after Teale had torn Douglas apart before delivering a decent ball. It was the start of a rather entertaining end to the half - not difficult considering what had gone before – with Boulding bringing a good save from Samson before Carey went very close to getting his second booking when he flattened Watson. It looked worse than the tackle he'd made that got him a booking and the free-kick almost led to the opener - for us, the danger quickly being dealt with before Goncalves sprayed a pass out wide to Teale, only for his shot to be easily dealt with by Cierzniak.
We were running the risk of losing someone to a second booking and sure enough a change was made at the break, but not the one I expected as Newton was withdrawn, although it seems that was through injury. On in his place came Jon Robertson, who many people thought we wouldn't see again this season after his loan spell at Cowdenbeath. United upped the tempo, Stewart Armstrong shooting over before Boulding went close to his debut goal after a decent pass from Watson. Robertson shot over when he let rip from the edge of the box as he tried to mark his return with a goal. United decided to replace the injured McLean with Markus Tornstrand before a great run from McGowan after he got onto Thompson's knock-on allowed him to set up Goncalves, but his shot was always being gathered by Cierzniak.
We got lucky when the defence switched off and Armstrong found Mackay-Steven racing in on the left but thankfully he shot wide. United immediately replaced Ryan and Boulding with Michael Gardyne and Robert Thomson, while we also made a change - Imrie coming on for Thompson. It was a switch designed to protect the big striker for Hampden but it was a rather odd choice of replacement with Parkin sitting on the bench. He arrived a few minutes later for McGowan, which made you wonder why we didn't do the changes at the same time or switch the players at the same time. In between the subs Imrie's pass found McGowan whose cross was half decent but was right on top of Teale and he could only head over before Gardyne's shot thankfully went the wrong side of the post.
Imrie tried for his second goal of the week when he did well to bring down what looked like a poor Teale pass and then rattled it towards goal, the ball not seeming to fly wide by much. Douglas put a free-kick over, Marc McAusland headed away a cross that Thomson looked destined to nod in before Samson produced a fantastic save on the line as Gardyne rattled the ball towards goal from close range. We were clinging on, Armstrong somehow heading well over from Watson's good cross,before a rally. Parkin couldn't get enough on Imrie's cross before McGinn ws brutally hacked down by John Rankin, who was instantly dismissed. There were only a few minutes left to make our numerical advantage, with Carey's free-kick and Robertson's shots going straight at Cierzniak before the final whistle.
The league games are now out of the way – at long last we can fully focus on the League Cup Final. Bring it on!
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