All of the talk pre-match was of Csaba Laszlo being on his last legs as United manager. As the team and the fans travelled to Dumfries there was the very real possibility of us being without a manager by the end of the day but as it turned out Laszlo had a surprise in store and by 4:50pm the 417 supporters who had made the trip were greeting a new potential cult here in Yannick Loemba and social media is a much happier place this evening. Today was not perfect (and the ‘Laszlo Out’ movement is still strong) but it is nice to be sitting at home on Saturday evening with a positive result.
The image above is what greeted United fans at 2pm today when the team was announced. The 5-3-2 system is not a usual Laszlo shape and it certainly took all of us by surprise but to be honest it worked really well in the first-half. The reality was more of a 3-4-Loemba-2 and it caused Queen of the South all sorts of issues. Giving Yannick Loemba a free role was, to give Laszlo credit, a great decision given how good the wide player performed over the 90 minutes. We deservedly led 2-0 at the break and you could tell that the players enjoyed the movement that this system seemed to create. Having new striker Pavol Šafranko act as an aggressive target man allowed players like Stanton and Loemba to use the midfield and it also meant we could overload the Queen of the South players in that area. The only real criticism in the first-half was the lack of involvement from Robson and Aird in the wing-back positions.
Remembering that this is Dundee United and that we don’t make things easy the second 45 minutes gave fans the usual anguish and anger that we have become accustomed to in recent seasons. The shape suddenly shifted to a 4-5-1 and it totally changed the dynamic of the game, allowing Queen of the South to control the ball and dominate in dangerous areas. Maybe Laszlo knew a defeat would spell the end so he became overly defensive and it all felt a little ominous once they got a goal back. Thankfully we manage to survive more than a few nervy moments to notch 3 points and give ourselves a lift in the league table.
It remains to be seen if this 5-3-2 style shape will stick but if you add in Callum Booth on the left and Fraser Fyvie in the middle then all of a sudden it begins to look like a strong system. We still need cover at the back, as I wouldn’t be too encouraged if Adam Barton becomes a central defender, but for 45 minutes today it looked like a balanced and effective tactic (less said about the 4-5-1 the better).
Player Ratings –
1 – Matej Rakovan – A fantastic treble save in the second half and coped well under lots of physical pressure late on. – 7
44 – Paul Watson – Didn’t do much wrong bit at the same time wasn’t tested much, especially in the first half. – 5
5 – Adam Barton – He has the attributes to be a good ball playing defender but he was far too composed and slow at times. – 4
4 – Frederic Frans – Some very important clearances in the last 30 minutes. He was the strongest of the three central defenders. – 6
17 – Jamie Robson – He just lacks the decisiveness to make the right calls. Maybe it is a lack of confidence but he always seems to make passes too short or challeneges too slowly. – 4
33 – Fraser Aird – Forced to play as an out-and-out fullback in the second half but did pretty well defensively when called upon. – 5
12 – Sam Stanton – Not Stanton’s best game but still an important part of the midfield and he took his goal well. – 7
20 – Christopher Rabitsch – Did his defensive work pretty well when we were under pressure. Still not convinced by him but he did his job today. – 5
90 – Yannick Loemba – Best player on the park. Offers something totally different. Willing to take players on and he is very strong on the ball when under pressure. – 8
14 – Pavol Šafranko – Impressive debut. Physically he looks a strong runner who challenges for everything in the air. Took his goal really well. – 7
10 – Nicky Clark – Occupied defenders and worked his socks off but didn’t get many opportunities in front of goal. – 6
Subs – 9. Craig Curran – Hassled and harried when he came on but didn’t offer much (3). 16. Matty Smith – Last minutes change, didn’t touch the ball (N/A).
Man of the Match – Easy decision for me, Yannick Loemba. Very comfortable in posession, drove the team forward and showed some lovely touches. The Queen of the South defenders tried their best to hack him down at every opportunity.
Up Next – A two-week break for the first team squad as the League Cup takes priority in the calendar. For Craig Easton’s youngsters they have an Irn-Bru Cup fixture against St.Johnstone Colts but for the main squad it is hopefully a chance for some good work to be done before Patrick Thistle visit Tannadice. An opportunity for players like King, Booth and Fyvie to continue their recovery.
Championship Results –
Dunfermline Athletic 1 – 3 Ross County
Alloa Athletic 0 – 2 Greenock Morton
Partick Thistle 2 – 1 Falkirk
Queen of the South 1 – 2 Dundee United
Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0 – 0 Ayr United