After last weekend’s thoroughly enjoyable opening fixture it has been a nice and relaxing week in the build-up to this second match in the league campaign. It has been a fairly quiet few days and there are no new signings to speak of but quiet is good when it comes to United and if we can enjoy more weeks like this then the season should be a successful one.
One piece of news that seemed to be well received on Thursday evening was the reveal of United’s black kit. After such a successful launch of the ‘Primary’ (home) top, this ‘Alternate’ (away) design adds to Macron’s successful first season with the club.
Although we enjoyed a peaceful and positive week, Partick Thistle have had a pretty torrid few days and it is one that would take a while to try and explain. They have struggled at board level and they are now without their lottery backer, Colin Weir. Rumours of financial difficulties, transfer budgets and the lack of a team bus have all dominated the headlines in recent days.
Could United take advantage of this uncertainty and get the campaign off to a 6 out of 6 start?
The answer, for the second week in a row, is yes! It wasn’t as straight forward as last week but we now sit top of the table on maximum points after last night’s 2-1 win against Partick.
To try and analyse last night is a bit of a challenge because the team really did show us lots of good, bad and everything in-between. The first-half was poor, but started reasonably well, then the second 45 shifted to the more dynamic, forceful and attacking style of football that we all loved on opening day.
Before the match it looked like the football was going to played out in horrific conditions but thankfully the 90 minutes took place in a rare break from the rain. In the early stages we controlled the ball, won a few corners, free-kicks and had some half chances. We didn’t really look under much pressure and Partick Thistle only played with one striker so we never really had to deal with huge pressure from the opposition. Unfortunately if you don’t make your own early pressure count then you always run the risk of being punished, even if the opposition are not a huge threat. That ended up being the case.
After Partick scored a poor, poor goal from a defensive point of view we seemed to lose confidence and we played the rest of the half in ‘2018/19 mode’ with an emphasis on two-touch football between the central defenders and the aimless long diagonals to Shankland. Our wing-play was very predictable and we just seemed to have no idea as to what to do with the ball or how to get back into the game. This was made all the worse by the fact that Partick themselves were pretty average. I won’t lie, it stressed me out and I feared the worse.
Thankfully after the break two things happened. United decided to push the fullbacks further forward, engage the midfield and have a go, plus Partick, for some reason, decided to drop deeper, lose any sense of control and play aimless football. It was a perfect mix for us and it allowed for chances, crosses and set-pieces to build momentum and pressure.
In the end we deserved the win without being particularly brilliant. The big thing for me, and the reason I was so delighted last night, was the manner in which we won. Will last night go down in our top 5 or 6 performances of the year? No. Will it go down amongst the 5 or 6 most valuable wins? Quite possibly. These are the games that win you the league.
Player Ratings –
1. – Benjamin Siegrist – Made one or two very important saves that kept us in the match. Very assured performance. 7
2. Liam Smith – This will be a theme in these ratings but he struggled in the opening spell, however had a solid and effective second 45. 6
5. Mark Connolly – Look, he is reckless and he is awkward at times but his performance in the later stages show why is important to us. 6
6. Mark Reynolds – Of the two central defenders he looked the more hesitant and had one or two really poor moments. Important in the late stages. 5
17. Jamie Robson – Much like Smith he struggled in the first-half but what a turnaround after the break. Outstanding in the second-half and a performance of real quality. 8
7. Paul McMullan – Yet another who struggled for about 50-55 minutes but as the game went on he found his confidence in crossing and creating chances. 6
12. Sam Stanton – Like a new player these last two matches (and some flashes in pre-season). Really enjoyed his performance last night. 7
18. Calum Butcher – Showed much more to his game last night and like others he grew and grew as the match went on. 7
10. Nicky Clark – Failed to get into the game out on the left and didn’t really make much of an impact when he moved upfront. 5
27. Louis Appere – Younger players tend to struggle when the team struggles but gain confidence when the team has confidence. Last night Appere had trouble getting into the game early on but grew as the team grew. 6
24. Lawrence Shankland – He is a player with so many qualities but we didn’t use him well in the early period of the game. Got a vital equaliser and then led the line superbly . 7
8. Peter Pawlett – You can tell just how clever a footballer he is and his surprise appearance made a real difference. Will be a huge player for us if we can keep him fit.
23. Ian Harkes – Only got ten minutes but really helped see the game with great energy in the middle of the park.
Man Of The Match –
During games I sometimes find my mind wandering to this blog and how I might write certain sections. If you had asked me at half-time for a nominee in this category I would have quite happily gone in the huff and said nobody but the win and the performance after the break means that there are one or two who I felt made a hug difference.
I really liked Stanton last night and felt he made a real impact once we got on top (as did Butcher alongside him). The winner here though, and the BBC agree with this, has to be Jamie Robson. Our real change, and the difference maker for us, was his ability to drive forward in the second-half and I counted four or five really important runs up the line and overlaps to help Appere. A really fantastic 45 minutes from Jamie. Well done.
Talking Tactics –
We used the same formation and stuck with the same personnel for the second week in a row. It is really pleasing to see us now settle on a core group which should help develop consistency in the squad. The actual system didn’t quite work, especially after we fell behind, but the shift in energy after the interval helped us win the match.
One real plus point, and something I always love to see, is the use of Smith and Robson as overlapping fullbacks. We didn’t seem to get much joy during the first-half but once we started using them properly it opened the game up. It also occupied defenders allowing both Stanton and Butcher to drive further forward.
The Positives –
The resilience to leave with a victory after falling behind is something that will win you the league. It was great to see the momentum build and for us to then take advantage of it. That also helped build the noise and energy in the away support which contributed to a really pleasing win.
In many ways I left the ground last night being more satisfied with that victory than the win against Inverness. It felt like a weight lifted off our shoulders and it should build real confidence amongst the squad and the support.
Need To Work On –
There will be times this season when we have the ball, we have the possession and we then need to take advantage of that. One worry from last night was the early spell of pressure that brought us zero goals and then we were punished. It would be good to make early pressure count so that we are on the front foot, especially in tough away games.
Up Next –
A welcome break for the team who will be given a few days off after two big wins. The free weekend next week allows for more work to be done in terms of maybe one or two additions and the fitness of players like Osman Sow and Peter Pawlett. It is a good thing we have a bit of time before the next fixture and hopefully by the time we face Dunfermline away the squad will be pretty much fully fit.
A final word to the travelling support last night. The weather on the drive through was horrific and it would have been so easy to decide against going but to the 1100 who did travel, a huge well done again for providing such a great atmosphere. I am really excited to see how the crowds build if we keep winning matches.
Enjoy your week and enjoy your relaxing Saturday!