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

Pic­ture: SNS

NO FOUL: Coll Don­ald­son pleads his in­no­cence to ref­eree John Beaton af­ter con­ced­ing the penalty.

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