Well if the pressure was already on Csaba Laszlo before today’s game it was ramped up a notch with quotes from Scott McDonald in today’s Daily Record. The ex-Celtic striker (just to use a Record phrasing) was scathing in his assessment of Laszlo’s managerial style and personality. He called the Hungarian “bonkers” and “uninspiring”. We all kind of know that he is definitely at least one of those things (bonkers) but this was the first example of a player actually saying it openly. To be honest I had a tiny bit of sympathy for Laszlo when I read the article this morning. It was clearly a standard “I’m Scott McDonald and I need a job” piece that the Daily Record often writes to support ex-Ranger and Celtic players and for him to criticise a manager like that is maybe a bit unprofessional (even if we all secretly agree with what he was saying).
The “bonkers” manager seemed to live up to that tag when the lineup was announced shortly after 2pm. The positives seemed to be that both Adam Barton and Callum Booth had been dropped due to poor performances but looking at the starting eleven it appeared as though we only had one natural central midfielder in the team, Austrian Christoph Rabitsch. Last week’s hero Fraser Fyvie was also nowhere to be seen. What we ended up with at 3pm was this…
Social media (and I include myself in this) had already started writing Csaba Laszlo themed obituary type posts shortly before kick-off but when the whistle went something amazing happened. We controlled and dominated a game of football. It wasn’t the most exhilarating performance we will ever see (and football under Laszlo is always going to be fairly laboured) but it was a very assured and balanced 90 minutes. We lacked a cutting edge at times but on the flip side the back four were rarely tested and the two sitting midfielders strolled it. Bouhenna in particular looked like he could play there comfortably if needed and it might now be the case that Adam Barton will struggle to get into the team if Stanton and Fyvie return to the squad next week.
In the forward areas the decision to bring back McMullan was a good one and he showed enough to stake a claim going into the next few fixtures. Yannick Loemba was back to being the technically gifted and physically strong player we know he can be and Pavol Safranko was excellent running the channels and challenging for every ball.
We cannot get carried away, and Falkirk were brutal, but this gives us a great chance to approach the next set of fixtures with real confidence. At the end of play today we are only two points behind league leaders Ayr United. With us now facing Ross County, Ayr and Inverness over the next three weeks, this could be a season defining run of games.
Csaba Laszlo lives to fight another day and if he didn’t burst into the changing room after today’s game and give the “I’m not leaving” speech from Wolf of Wall Street I’ll be disappointed.
Player Ratings –
1 – Matej Rakovan – A couple of nervy moments but again it was Matej to the rescue as he made one or two very important saves late on. 6
33 – Fraser Aird – Sympathy for him being shunted back into the defence but he coped well (although wasn’t ever really tested). A good combination with McMullan ahead of him. 6
44 – Paul Watson – Yet another very assured performance at the heart of the defence. Didn’t put a foot wrong and he was strong in the air as always. 6
4 – Frederic Frans – Yet another very assured performance at the heart of the defence. Didn’t put a foot wrong and he was strong in the air as always. If you are still reading this I copy and pasted Paul Watson’s description because they put in basically the same performance. 6
17 – Jamie Robson – Hats off to Jamie Robson. A really positive display and one that will potentially put him ahead of Booth in the pecking order. 7
19 – Rachid Bouhenna – Had the cigars out for most of the match. Strong, composed and a decent threat driving forward. He looks like a really good player. 7
7 – Paul McMullan – A surprise inclusion but one that took his chance very well. Some very nice touches and a positive influence going forward. 6
20 – Christopher Rabitsch – Fits a role and does a job. He will undoubtedly become a squad player once Stanton and Fyvie are fully fit but he has shown improvements since his early performances. 6
90 – Yannick Loemba – No slips or trips this week and he was in complete control of the ball. Probably should have had at least one goal and he probably needs to be more direct once he has a run on someone (his fascination with drag backs slows things down). 6
14 – Pavol Šafranko – Over the course of the season he could be up there when looking at our most influential players. A proper striker and someone who thrives on being a hold up striker and grafter. 8
9 – Craig Curran – I’ve said it previously but he is basically Šafranko with less ability. I do quite like him and he did well for his goal today. 6
Subs – 11. Billy King – Only the one change this week and it was more fitness work for King as he continues his return from injury. Didn’t have much to do.
Man of the Match – Two or three candidates for this award. A big pat on the back for Jamie Robson who had a very solid game and is fighting hard for his place in the team. Elsewhere Yannick Loemba was in total control of the left-hand side of the park and for Rachid Bouhenna for dominating the midfield in an unconventional role. The player for me who probably deserves the honour is Pavol Šafranko. He works so tirelessly for the team and his header to get the first goal was typical of his play. The determination he showed to get ahead of the goalkeeper shows how committed he is.
Up Next – A massive, massive test at Tannadice against Championship favourites Ross County. The Dingwall side have shown frailties in the last few weeks and this will be a huge fixture for both clubs. On paper the County team is as strong as anyone’s but the same could be said for United. If Laszlo can mastermind a victory over Ross County it will buy him a huge amount of good credit from the fans, and in the boardroom.
Championship Results –
Partick Thistle 3 – 2 Queen of the South
Greenock Morton 1 – 1 Dunfermline Athletic
Falkirk 0 – 2 Dundee United
Ross County 0 – 0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Alloa Athletic 0 – 2 Ayr United