Inverness head to Tannadice this weekend and Caley Stan is yer man with a Preview to set up this clash for you.
Dundee United are now spending a third consecutive season in the second tier of Scottish football. It feels weird to write that. Even though I don’t remember much about the eighties (youth not drugs), their incredible achievements throughout that decade (League Champions, UEFA Cup finalists, European Cup semi-finalists, perennial conquerors of FC Barcelona) formed a veneer of great stature around the club that barely seemed to diminish through the many years of mediocrity that followed. But relegation, boardroom wrangling, falling crowds and home defeats to the likes of Dumbarton and Ross County have taken their toll. Csaba Laszlo was sacked with the club on its knees, staring down the barrel of a fourth year out of the top flight, their grand history looking more and more like a curiosity, the answer to an obscure quiz question. Dundee were once European Cup semi-finalists too, you know. Isn’t that funny.
History of the Fixture
Won 16 Drawn 17 Lost 18
We first played Dundee United in the Scottish Cup Fourth Round of 1998 when a Paul Sheerin goal saw us lead at for the best part of an hour at Tannadice before a late Kjell Oloffson strike forced a replay. The replay was unforgettable – Gary McSwegan appeared to have finished the tie when he put United 2-0 up in the 85th minute. Then, in a turn of events that was typical of the Pele era, a quickfire Brian Thomson goal was followed, in the dying seconds, by the best goal of all time from Mark McCulloch. Lars Zetterlund won it for United in extra time, but the crowd of almost 6000 (yes, 6000 for a midweek replay) left elated – we had just gone toe-to-toe with an established top tier side for the first time in our history.
The two sides didn’t meet again until 2004, and we failed to get the better of them in our first six attempts following promotion, though goals from Liam Fox and Barry Wilson saw us come out on top in a 2005 League Cup tie in Inverness. Our maiden league victory over United took place at Tannadice in February of the following year, and in some style. Craig Brewster had left Caley to take over there just a month before, threatening to take some of our best players (and David Proctor) with him. But Charlie Christie had us purring at the time, and while United led twice through two stunning free-kicks from Charlie Mulgrew, Darren Dodds headed home in between to keep us in the game before Wyness and Dargo ran riot - each getting on the scoresheet before Alan Morgan sealed the 4-2 victory.
There have been some cracking encounters since, like this 4-0 stroll in the Caley Park, the time we went 3-0 down after 8 minutes but still felt gutted to leave with a point, and another time we did them 4-0 at Tannadice that I can’t find on youtube.
Dundee United Last 6: DDWLLW
ICT Last 6: DWWDDD
The two sides are tied on 14 points, though we have a game in hand and a superior goal difference. Our 19-game unbeaten run started 7 months ago with a 1-1 draw at Tannadice, but it’s starting to look tired. United won at Firhill last week in Robbie Nielson’s first game in charge after consecutive defeats put Laszlo out of his misery. With over a thousand Arabs making the trip to Maryhill, and a big crowd expected to welcome the new manager, it feels like circumstances might matter more than form on this occasion. Basically, it’s a crap time for us to be going there.
Teams and Tactics
Robbos’s faith in the White-headed 4-2-3-1 that was so effective at Dunfermline seemed to finally waver in the second half last week, with the half-time introduction of Daniel MacKay and subsequent sightings of Calder and Austin. However, I still fully expect to see the same starting eleven and shape – it’s at its best away from home against proactive opponents and is therefore ideal for this game. George Oakley is back in training but won’t feature tomorrow, while the existence of Angus Beith remains unconfirmed .
Neilson played a 4-4-1-1 last week with Fraser Aird and Billy King in the wide positions and Paul McMullan playing off Slovakian internationalist, Pavlov Safranko. On paper, they look a cut above the rest of the league, with Fraser Fyvie anchoring the midfield and an enormous centre-half pairing of francophones Rachid Bouhenna and Frederic Frans, combined height – 12 feet and 7 inches.
We’ll be back in ‘The Shed’ tomorrow, a wonderful throwback to a different era of stadia, with a sixty year-old corrugated iron roof that acts as effective amplifier and visible reminders of the terracing that once stood beneath it.
Ach, it’s only a game. Win, lose or draw you’ll get home to your bed just the same.