A study was published this week, suggesting that football fans can suffer dangerous levels of stress whilst following their team. Apparently this stress can have serious long-term effects on our health. I’m sure most of us can identify with these findings, especially in recent seasons (although some might say that it is worth it). However, after yesterday I wonder if the science boffins would like to carry out a further study, to see if having to watch 90 minutes of unbelievably negative and dull anti-football can result in people developing narcolepsy.
I must admit that I was looking forward to getting back to writing after a mini two week hiatus, but 80 minutes into yesterday’s game I was seriously worried about what I would be able to write. Nothing happened. Between 20 and 90 minutes the 7,000+ crowd had very little to get excited about, and it was bloody freezing. At times the game yesterday was as dull as football can be, with a bit of blame lying at the feet of United but most of it aimed at Greenock Morton’s post-goal gameplan.
It wasn’t always this boring, in the early stages we payed some nice, bright football with the surprise inclusion of Osman Sow actually working in our favour as the giant Swede used his hold up play to good effect. We did have the ball in the net after just 45 seconds but that disallowed goal would come back to haunt us as Morton took a surprise lead. The header from Kalvin Orsi really should have been prevented and it halted the early positive football from United. For David Hopkin it was time to call on his side to dig a few trenches and sit in.
So, what happened next was 70 minutes of us having almost all the ball and Morton retreating deep into their own box (so deep that a few of them could have taken a seat in the Shed during the closing stages). They also pulled their players into a narrow shape, forcing us to play down the flanks. Unfortunately our wide players and fullbacks were not at their best and this meant that the game was largely played out in our central defensive area as we tried to find a way through. The central midfielders were then guilty of not taking the ball on the turn, instead they received it and then passed back towards our defenders, and this meant that the Reynolds/Connolly pairing were in charge of distributing the ball to the flanks.
One criticism of this United team is that the ball can become very slow and when we play teams who do sit in we can be short on ideas as to how to break them down. When we have lots of time to think it can negatively affect us. We are absolutely at our best when we can hit teams at pace and without too much hesitation on the ball. Facing a side like Morton we can get a bit nervy when the ball slows down.
In the end we did what we needed to do in terms of getting a result, albeit not a win. Having Lawrence Shankland in your team means that you will always have a chance and he popped up again to save us. We could have won it right at the death if not for an amazing save from the Morton keeper (it was the quickest he had moved all game).
With the Ayr v Caley result going our way, we are amazingly a point better off and we extend our lead at the top despite an underwhelming 90 minutes.
The social media reaction to the game was interesting and I published a couple of tweets that divided opinion a little. One mentioned how poor the game was, one mentioned how relaxed I am despite yesterday. I think everyone was the same though, we had a game that sits in that very fine line between us maybe being disappointed at the performance but satisfied with the result. Some also took the view that it was Morton’s anti-football that ruined the game, whereas some said it was more United’s inability to quicken the game. It was probably a bit of both. My main criticism was just how dull the game ended up being. We are used to having a bit more excitement this season, but this is football and every single campaign is always littered with dull and turgid games that we have to sit through (it also didn’t help that this is January and it was absolutely baltic).
So, one step closer and one point further along this road to the title. We are now 18 clear (effectively 19 with goal difference). It is a fantastic place to be and one we need to enjoy, even when we have games like yesterday.
Player Ratings –
1. Benjamin Siegrist – Had nothing to do. Ended up playing as a deep lying midfielder in the last 15 minutes. 6
2. Liam Smith – Did well enough going forward but the midfielders ahead of him didn’t help. Got the assist for Shankland’s equaliser. 6
5. Mark Connolly – Not sure what to write about Connolly or Reynolds. Had a huge amount of the ball, guilty of not moving it quicker at times but nothing else to do other than play passes out from the back. 6
6. Mark Reynolds – See above. 6
17. Jamie Robson – Didn’t have a great game in terms of control of the ball. A few dangerous crosses but also some really poor passing. 5
27. Louis Appere – His touch just wasn’t there and he didn’t get past his man very often. Ineffective when moved upfront. 5
4. Dillon Powers – Again looked composed and neat on the ball but he became more and more negative with his passing as the game went on. 6
23. Ian Harkes – In the early stages he was looking positive but he faded badly and was then replaced at half-time. 5
8. Peter Pawlett – Could have, and should have got on the score sheet and assist sheet early on but then just seemed to disappear after that. One very good run in the second-half but little else (and then, shock horror, went off injured). 5
9. Osman Sow – Had a very good twenty minutes, looking good on the ball and skilful with his hold up play. Then disappeared (like so many others). 5
24. Lawrence Shankland – The saviour, yet again. Not much of an impact other than his late equaliser, in large part as a result of how we played as a team. 6
7. Paul McMullan – One of those appearances that was bad enough that it almost became funny. Not sure what was going on but he was really, really poor.
40. Chris Mochrie – Looked lively and actually tried to carry the ball forward from central midfield, something we didn’t have for most of the game.
3. Adrian Sporle – Little impact when he came on.
Man Of The Match –
On reflection I think I will leave this bit blank…
Talking Tactics –
Back to a straight forward 442 with Sow and Shankland as the front pairing. It worked well early on but the Morton goal then exposed the tactics as being too one dimensional for large spells of the game. We really needed a number 10, someone like Nicky Clark or Declan Glass to get the ball in those tight areas at the edge of the box.
We were forced to play a crossing based game yesterday and it didn’t really work.
The Positives –
We again show or resilience and ability to get a result in difficult circumstances. It was left a bit too late for most but the point is important and it maintains our brilliant home record for the year.
The sign of champions.
Need To Work On –
Maybe I am being too harsh, maybe I am still cold after yesterday, but we do need to move things with more purpose when faced with a team who will happily sit in and give us time on the ball.
I’m not getting too stressed though, we are in a comfortable and strong position.
Up Next –
After our 2-2 draw with Hibs in the Scottish Cup we travel to Easter Road for the replay. I must admit I am a bit nervous about this one, as I thought that when Hibs were in the groove against us they were very impressive. However, they were also guilty of poor spells in the game and they do have weaknesses that United can hopefully exploit.
I did see yesterday that we had apparently sold 1300+ tickets for this, so it should be a great away trip with the fans making plenty of noise.
Finally, last night fans got the chance to reminisce about the 2010 Scottish Cup victory at the anniversary dinner organised by the DUSF and the Dundee United Commercial Team. Players and staff from that squad were in attendance. A huge well done to all involved in organising, and I hope that all the fans who attended last night had a brilliant evening (the photos and videos suggested that they did!)
Dunfermline 2 – 0 Dundee (Friday)
Arbroath 2 – 1 Partick Thistle
Dundee United 1 – 1 Greenock Morton
Ayr United 1 – 0 Inverness
Queen of the South 2 – 3 Alloa Athletic