Pre-Season Friendly Review – East Fife

Hello and welcome to the first match review of the 2019/20 season! Hopefully this campaign will be full of positive reviews and in an ideal world it will end with us talking about our plans for the Premiership after winning the league……

Overall it has been a fairly quiet and low-key close season at Tannadice. We’ve had a few staffing changes but in comparison to previous years we have had a quiet few weeks. This is actually a good thing given recent overhauls but it does leave us all scrambling for things to actually talk about. I find the rumour mill very tedious at this time of the year so the list of topics up for discussion is drastically cut when your team isn’t signing anyone and everyone who fancies a two-year deal at United like last summer. All we’ve been left with is discussing what the new kit might look like and a bit of scaffolding in the Eddie Thompson Stand!

In all seriousness though it is the case that major rebuilds cannot happen each and every window. One advantage we have over 6 or 7 sides in the upcoming Championship is that we do have the framework of a settled squad. Neilson claimed in the paper the other day that the squad as it stands is good enough but that remains to be seen. Most teams in the division are spending their summer months desperately trying to assemble a squad of players who don’t know each other but we, for the first time in a few seasons, have the ‘luxury’ of taking our time. All we need to do is identify 3 or 4 quality additions rather than simply trying to pad out a squad full of ‘options’ and squad players.

For yesterday’s friendly at East Fife there were only a few new things to mention, which is a world away from last year’s trip to Brechin and the debuts of what felt like dozens of new players.

Robbie Neilson’s plan for yesterday was to use all 24 players he named in the match day squad and that meant the performance was always going to be very much about fitness and game time rather than needing to rack up the goals or put in an impressive display. Some fans need to realise that this time of year is about preparation rather than performance but that will all change on the 12th of July against Hearts.

The game itself was very ‘pre-seasony’ and the first-half in particular was full of slack passing, hesitancy and a lack of aggression. As much as I was looking forward to the return of football after a short break, yesterday reminded me why the idea of going to pre-season games is always a little bit more exciting than the game itself. We also only witnessed one new signing in Liam Smith. Argentinian Adrian Sporle was missing from the squad but we did have a number of younger players to see for the first time.

I won’t bother doing any player ratings because at this stage they are pretty meaningless but the players who did come through yesterday with above pass marks were probably –

Rachid Bouhenna – Continued to impress in the midfield.

Scott Banks – Showed some lively touches in the first-half.

Logan Chalmers – Had some impressive runs and moments in the second 45.

Louis Appere – Looked a different player to the one I’ve previously seen. Lots of running and a good physical presence.

Nicky Clark – Took his goal well and covered lots of ground.

Deniz Mehmet – Tested a few times in the second half and performed very well. Rumour is that he has signed a deal with the club.

Callum Booth – Provided more attacking threat than Robson.

Chris Mochrie – An assured performance from the highly rated youngster.

Nobody was poor as such but the game itself was very flat for long spells, although the second 45 was better and the ‘second’ team played with much more attacking intent.

So, in summary, it was a bit ‘meh’ but the second 45 was better than the first, the weather was unbelievably weird and the floodlights had to be turned on at 4:00pm. Also East Fife seem to have lots of incredibly old fans given the birthday messages and presentations yesterday!

I certainly will not be reading too much into yesterday and I definitely will not be losing any sleep over a pre-season game in which we used 24 players over the 90 minutes. What we do still need is 2 or 3 quality additions and that will hopefully happen over the next 7-10 days ahead of our first competitive game against Hearts on the 12th of July.

Currently when you look at the first team squad we are sitting at –

*denotes multiple positions

Goalkeepers – Siegrist, Mehmet

Fullbacks – Watson, Smith, Sporle, Booth, Robson*

Central Defenders – Connolly, Frans, Reynolds, Bouhenna*

Central Midfielders – Butcher, Harkes, Stanton, Bouhenna*

Attacking Midfielders – Pawlett, C.Smith, McMullan, Robson*

Strikers – Sow, Clark

That doesn’t include three or four youngsters who could make the step up and it also doesn’t include players who are no longer training with United but who are still under contract – Aird, Rabitsch, Loemba, Barton.

We really still need another creative player in the midfield (possibly two) and at least one more striker.

Up Next – We have a strange double header next week with Brechin away on Friday night and then Dumbarton away on the Saturday. You would assume that Neilson will continue to use his full squad and it will be of no surprise to see the same game plan next week with teams getting 45 minutes of action. I won’t be at either of the friendlies next week so for me the next football will be Tynecastle on the 12th of July.