The only question worth answering yesterday was – “Will the United players give us a response after last Friday?”
The answer? Not really.
Truth be told the match at Cappielow was a bit of a borefest with very little football being played by either team. We lacked any fluidity, any aggression and we had very little energy in the areas that we needed it.
In the first-half we controlled possession but Neilson’s view that we played very well was a bit off the mark for me. We didn’t really force Gaston into making any saves and our goal came from an error of judgement on his part when he came off his line too early at a set piece (something that was to be repeated by our own goalkeeper later on).
What disappointed me most about yesterday was the lack of pressing from our players. It has been a feature under Neilson but yesterday we sat back and allowed Morton to pin us back for spells. This was especially true in the second half which was an almost entire 45 minutes of us looking to see the game out rather than go for the kill. This allowed Morton to grow in confidence and once they started to put pressure on us with crosses into the box you almost felt like the inevitable was coming.
Neither team were particularly good yesterday but it was United who looked the more nervy in the closing stages and that is not what Neilson wants or needs in this title race. We have to sort out the psychological weakness in this squad because teams will look at yesterday and know that a prolonged period of pressure might give them what they are looking for.
What a good team does need is the ability to look at their goalkeeper and feel reassured. This is where now look at the role our goalkeepers have played this season and begin to wonder if Neilson may add one to his January shopping list. Neither Rakovan or Siegrist have looked strong enough to be relied upon and yesterday it was Rakovan who made the crucial mistake that allowed Morton to equalise.
Given the pressure that came before it you would give Morton the credit they deserve for getting that equaliser but yesterday was a massive disappointment. That isn’t just in the result but also in terms of the performance.
Player Ratings –
34 – Matej Rakovan – I had a bit of sympathy for him after the Ayr game but yesterday he proved that he can’t be relied upon as our number one goalkeeper. It should be his last appearance for the club. 2
2 – Stewart Murdoch – He is our best option at right-back (despite not being particularly great there). Solid enough but we need to look at options in January. 6
19 – Rachid Bouhenna – Looked very comfortable in the first-half but didn’t cope well in the second. 5
4 – Frederic Frans – Did well for the United goal but in a similar position to Bouhenna in terms of the second 45 and the pressure he was put under. 6
3 – Callum Booth – His needless tackle led to the free kick that Morton scored from. Didn’t look comfortable for long spells. 5
8 – Fraser Fyvie – Had some strong spells in the game but he didn’t show enough when we needed possession in the later stages. 6
12 – Sam Stanton – Another very quiet game from Stanton. Not sure what is the matter with him but he has been poor in recent matches. 4
7 – Paul McMullan – He has definitely become much more involved under Neilson. His work-rate has improved and he seems more committed but he didn’t offer much on the ball yesterday. 5
9 – Craig Curran – He won a fair amount in the air and ran the channels well but isn’t someone who can make much of a difference when he has the ball at his feet. 5
33 – Fraser Aird – Another assist from Aird but he seems to lack confidence when trying to beat his man. Possibly a tad unfair that he went off. 5
14 – Pavol Šafranko – His poorest game in a United shirt. Nothing seemed to work for him yesterday and he didn’t get involved. 5
11. Billy King – Wasted a glorious chance late on when he should have squared it instead of shooting straight at the Gaston.
20. Christoph Rabistch – He never seems to be able to make any impact and is really just an extra body in the defensive area when we are under pressure.
Man of the Match – Given the number of below average marks I can’t really single anyone out here. It was a flat and uninspiring performance from United and it is worrying that we didn’t see the reaction that we had hoped for. The result on reflection is maybe not the worst in the world given the Morton pressure in the second half but the performance level is a concern.
Up Next – A long trip north to face Inverness. The result yesterday puts even more pressure on this next fixture and United really do need to get back to winning ways. We can take heart from the last home match that Inverness played as they were defeated by bottom of the table Falkirk.
Championship Results –
Partick Thistle 2 – 0 Dunfermline Athletic
Ross County 1 – 1 Queen of the South
Greenock Morton 1 – Dundee United
Falkirk 2 – 2 Alloa Athletic
Ayr United P – P Inverness Caledonian Thistle