United turn thoughts to staying in top flight
‘Five cup finals’ await as Tannadice club miss out on chance to reach the real thing at Hampden
It’s just really disappointing after the season we’ve had to have come here with a massive chance to get into a final and we’ve blown it
THERE won’t be a cup final for beleaguered Dundee United and no silver lining on a doom-laden campaign. Then again?
“As the cliché goes, we have five cup finals now,” said Coll Donaldson as his mind swiftly turned to United’s increasingly unlikely bid to haul themselves off the bottom of the table and avoid relegation from the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership. Given they are eight points adrift with just these five ‘cup finals’ to go, a recovery from their quite perilous position would have Lazarus doffing a tangerine and black bunnet in appreciation.
The sense of deflation in the United ranks after Saturday’s penalty shootout defeat to Hibernian was palpable as the players trudged through the postmatch media mixed zone and were asked to rake over the debris.
The William Hill Scottish Cup offered United the chance to salvage something from a truly wretched season. Victory over Hibernian would have given them that extra spring in the step ahead of the survival run in. Instead, they were left to reflect on what might have been.
There was a sense that this agonising defeat would be the last boot in the you know whats for United; a savage dunt that would finally knock them to the floor in a ghastly campaign which has saw them floundering on the ropes for months. Donaldson was having none of it, though. “Definitely not,” responded the 21-year-old defender when asked if this latest setback would knock the stuffing out of the Tannadice team. “If anything this will spur us on even more. The disappointed we are feeling in there, you don’t want to feel that again and we will if we are relegated. We’ll be in on Tuesday and then prepping for our next game against Hamilton. It’s a winnable game but we’ve had a few winnable games this season. This is it now.”
Donaldson’s day was fairly eventful. He conceded a somewhat dicey penalty in the first half, which Jason Cummings would miss, and eventually hirpled off injured in the second period during another palaver which had echoes of Gavin Gunning’s bamboozling exit the other week. Guy Demel, the United substitute, wasn’t even ready to come on as Donaldson limped to the touchline, leaving Mixu Paatelainen with 10-men on the park for a spell.
The Finn was fuming. “I went down and the ref said ‘are you able to walk off?’,” said Donaldson. “Maybe I should have said ‘no’ but I said ‘yes’. So I started walking off and was walking slowly and the ref said ‘hurry up or I’ll book you’. I’d already been booked so I’m thinking I don’t want to get sent off. I tried to explain it to him [Paatelainen] and he shouted at me louder. I spoke to him after and it’s been dealt with. I was thinking of the team, my hamstring was tightening up. I didn’t want to be the reason Hibs scored because I couldn’t run back quickly enough. I had to come off.”
United had their chances to nick a goal but were thwarted by Conrad Logan’s inspired display in the Hibernian goal. In a tight, tense tussle, you always felt one goal would do it and as the match ploughed on into extra time, it was Dundee United who looked the more purposeful outfit. They would, however, pay the penalty.
“It’s just really disappointing after the season we’ve had to have come here with a massive chance to get into a final and we’ve blown it,” said Paul Paton, the Dundee United captain. There will be no daytrip back to Hampden for the showpiece occasion and Paton knows the task facing United in their battle to avoid the drop is colossal.
“Right now it feels hard, very hard, but we’ve got five massive games to come and we have to win all of them,” he added. “It’s going to be nearimpossible but we just have to get on with it.”
In their current predicament, United can ill afford to dwell on Saturday’s crushing disappointment. As Paul Dixon noted: “We all just have to give each other a boot up the a*** and say ‘it’s gone, get on with it’.”
Meanwhile, Justine Mitchell resigned as a director of Dundee United with immediate effect last night. The daughter of former chairman Eddie Thompson remains a shareholder and has vowed to continue her work with the club’s women’s
NO FOUL: Coll Donaldson pleads his innocence to referee John Beaton after conceding the penalty.