Soccer  

Dundee United 3-0 Ross County: Significant win moves Liam Fox’s side off bottom

Charlie Mulgrew scores
Charlie Mulgrew’s header doubled United’s lead

Dundee United climbed off the bottom of the Scottish Premiership with a potentially pivotal win over fellow strugglers Ross County.

A Connor Randall own-goal and second-half efforts from Charlie Mulgrew and Craig Sibbald secured the victory and moved United a point ahead of County and to within two of Motherwell.

County – who could have opened up a five-point lead over United – will rue the spurning of several chances and had to play the final few minutes without Owura Edwards after he was sent off.

Malky Mackay’s men drop to the bottom of the table, having played a game more than United.

United carved out the first chance of the game after a fairly cagey opening – captain Ryan Edwards headed Liam Smith’s cross just wide – but the home fans did not have to wait much longer for the opening goal.

Ian Harkes spread the play wonderfully to find Glenn Middleton on the left-hand side. The winger skipped by his man with ease, and his ball across struck Keith Watson before being bundled into his own goal by Connor Randall, who got his feet in a tangle attempting to clear.

The goal seemed to spark the visitors into life, and they really should have drawn level before half-time.

First, Owura Edwards shot wide after Mulgrew’s misjudged defensive header put him clean through, and then Watson headed Yan Dhanda’s corner against the base of a post.

After the break, both sides continued to attack. Steven Fletcher had a fierce shot well saved by Ross Laidlaw and at the other end, Dhanda’s free-kick whistled just wide of Mark Birighitti’s goal.

County were made to pay for their profligacy on 70 minutes, as Mulgrew stooped to head Dylan Levitt’s pinpoint corner past Laidlaw to give United a precious cushion.

The visitors did put the ball into the back of the net soon after, but William Akio’s close-range effort was ruled out by VAR for the tightest of offside calls.

And things unravelled for the visitors after that setback. Edwards was sent off for a second yellow card after some unnecessary pushing and shoving, before Sibbald curled a lovely left-footed effort past Laidlaw to wrap up the win for United.

Player of the match – Ian Harkes

Ian Harkes makes a tackle
The United midfielder found pockets of space throughout, and was a constant threat to the County defence. He set Middleton away for the first goal, and grabbed a deserved assist at the end when Sibbald fired home.

Wasteful County made to pay in relegation six-pointer – analysis

Mackay called for his side to be more clinical as the Dingwall outfit looked to turn promising performances into points. However, they failed to hit the target once, despite carving out numerous big chances.

Edwards’ missed one-on-one and Watson’s header off the post at 1-0 down were crucial moments – had either of those found the back of the net, County would have been the side with the momentum.

United, though, did what they had to do. They knew they needed a win to stay in touch with the sides above them, and took their chances to claim another victory under the lights – they are still to win a league game in daylight this season.

Liam Fox will see the return of Mulgrew as a big boost. The veteran defender was a threat from set-pieces, both aerially and with his own delivery, and he brings a wealth of experience with him.

What they said

Dundee United head coach Liam Fox: “There were moments of good stuff. I’ve seen us play better than that, but tonight was about the result and I’m delighted the players stood up and ground the result out.

“We’re delighted with the three points, but we’re back to work tomorrow. We’ve got a difficult game at St Johnstone on Saturday, and there’s going to be ups and downs between today and the end of the season.”

Ross County manager Malky Mackay: “There was plenty to be pleased about. We started not badly and they caught us on the counter. For the half-hour before half-time, we created three unbelievable chances – we should have been 3-1 up.

“We’re down there in amongst it, but I think it’s fine margins. I think we’re as good as a number of other teams in the division, we’ve just got to keep trying to prove it. If we weren’t creating chances I’d be more worried.”

What’s next?

United travel to Perth to face St Johnstone on Monday 2 January, and County are away to Aberdeen on the same day (both 15:00 GMT).

Player of the match

SmithLiam Smith

Dundee United

  1. Squad number2Player nameSmith

  2. Squad number9Player nameFletcher

  3. Squad number19Player nameLevitt

  4. Squad number15Player nameMiddleton

  5. Squad number12Player nameEdwards

  6. Squad number44Player nameMacleod

  7. Squad number14Player nameSibbald

  8. Squad number23Player nameHarkes

  9. Squad number3Player nameMcMann

  10. Squad number6Player nameGraham

  11. Squad number1Player nameBirighitti

  12. Squad number10Player nameDjoum

  13. Squad number32Player nameWatt

  14. Squad number4Player nameMulgrew

Ross County

  1. Squad number2Player nameRandall

  2. Squad number10Player nameDhanda

  3. Squad number26Player nameWhite

  4. Squad number22Player nameTillson

  5. Squad number1Player nameLaidlaw

  6. Squad number8Player nameCallachan

  7. Squad number15Player nameWatson

  8. Squad number16Player nameHarmon

  9. Squad number14Player nameLoturi

  10. Squad number7Player nameEdwards

  11. Squad number6Player nameIacovitti

  12. Squad number5Player nameBaldwin

  13. Squad number17Player nameOlaigbe

  14. Squad number12Player nameJohnson

  15. Squad number18Player nameAkio

  16. Squad number24Player namePaton

Line-ups

Dundee Utd

Formation 3-4-2-1

  • 1Birighitti
  • 12Edwards
  • 4Mulgrew
  • 6Graham
  • 2Smith
  • 19LevittSubstituted forDjoumat 79′minutes
  • 14Sibbald
  • 3McMannBooked at 85mins
  • 23HarkesBooked at 36mins
  • 15MiddletonSubstituted forMacleodat 89′minutes
  • 9FletcherSubstituted forWattat 81′minutes

Substitutes

  • 7Niskanen
  • 10Djoum
  • 13Eriksson
  • 17Meekison
  • 20Anaku
  • 22Freeman
  • 28Anim Cudjoe
  • 32Watt
  • 44Macleod

Ross County

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Laidlaw
  • 2RandallSubstituted forJohnsonat 81′minutes
  • 15WatsonSubstituted forBaldwinat 81′minutes
  • 6Iacovitti
  • 16HarmonSubstituted forOlaigbeat 80′minutes
  • 22Tillson
  • 14LoturiSubstituted forAkioat 71′minutes
  • 7EdwardsBooked at 85mins
  • 8CallachanSubstituted forPatonat 86′minutes
  • 10Dhanda
  • 26White

Substitutes

  • 4Cancola
  • 5Baldwin
  • 11Sims
  • 12Johnson
  • 17Olaigbe
  • 18Akio
  • 19Hiwula-Mayifuila
  • 24Paton
  • 31Eastwood

Referee:
Chris Graham

Attendance:
8,249

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