The Herald - Herald Sport
Stay of execution for Goodwin’ but Killie all-but relegate United
DUNDEE UNITED’S Premiership survival hopes were left hanging by a thread last night after a 3-0 trouncing at home to Kilmarnock.
Jim Goodwin’s side requires a miracle on the final day of the season to escape the drop from the top flight.
United will need to hope Ross County lose to Kilmarnock on Sunday, and that they managed to achieve a whopping eight-goal swing on the Staggies. Derek McInnes’s side need just a point at home to Malky MacKay’s men to avoid the play-off.
Killie put the hosts to the sword on their own patch. United were relegated until the 95th minute, when St Johnstone equalised in the Highlands.
A deadly double by Kyle Vassell and a late strike by Innes Cameron secured a vital three points for McInnes and his players. They now face a Sunday showdown with County to essentially determine who will feature in the play-off with either Partick Thistle or Ayr United.
With the spring sunshine gracing the fine pitch at Tannadice, the stage was set for the game, which of course panned out to be a predictably nervy affair at points.
Killie applied some early pressure with a couple of corners and a long throw, as they enjoyed the better of the opening stages. United’s fans thought Steven Fletcher, thrown in after passing a late fitness test, had missed a golden chance after bringing down a long ball unmarked in the Killie box, but the linesman had his flag up moments later.
Vassell did break the deadlock after 14 minutes to give the visitors the lead to send a packed-away end wild. The defending was shocking, with a bit of pinball taking place on the edge of the United area.
The ball then broke kindly for the striker who unleashed a powerful shot into the bottom far corner past the helpless Jack Newman.
Some neat work down the left wing by Peter Pawlett and Scott McMann saw a good chance fashioned for Fletcher, this time onside, but his firsttime hit sailed over the bar.
Vassell very nearly had another of the evening with an audacious effort from the halfway line. It was dipping in, but Newman did just enough to tip his volley over. Killie’s goal seemed to help their confidence no end, they were asserting themselves in the game much more than United. Luke Chambers was next to have a go, but his free kick from around 25 yards out went way over.
United enjoyed a better spell on the ball midway through the first half, but it just wasn’t clicking in the final third with the last pass, coupled with Killie’s resolute defending.
Pawlett attempted an outrageous overhead kick. His effort did cause chaos in the Killie box, but they managed to clear the danger eventually. There was no doubt that Killie were shaky too whenever United managed to apply some sustained pressure. But right before the interval, Killie doubled their advantage as Vassell netted his second to disperse any fears for the Ayrshire club. Catastrophic defending from United again allowed Christian Doidge to nip in behind after poor play by Ilmari Niskanen and Loick Ayina. He beat the keeper to the ball and was fouled, but Vassell tapped it into the empty net as Alan Muir played advantage.
Something had to change for United. Goodwin made a double substitute at half time as Niskanen and Ian Harkes were hooked for Dylan Levitt, back from a lengthy injury, and Glenn Middleton.
It was again McInnes’ side who fashioned the first attempt of the second period, though. A short corner routine from Liam Polworth and Danny Armstrong saw the latter get a thunderous shot away, but it went wide.
Charlie Mulgrew’s booking earned sarcastic cheers from the travelling faithful, who were growing restless with the referee. Left-back Chambers was having an outstanding game for Killie. His tackling and reading of the game in particular was superb, as he lapped up the appreciation from his supporters.
Doidge tried his luck after being played in by Rory McKenzie, but his attempt sliced wide.
United were going out with a whimper. Killie retreated with some defensive-minded subs, so the hosts were seeing plenty of the ball, but their possession amounted to little other than a tame Fletcher header. Levitt had a shot from the edge of the box well blocked too.
And right at the death, Innes Cameron wrapped things up for Killie on the counter as the 22-year-old scored a closerange tap-in after McKenzie picked him out.
Rory MacLeod hit the post for the hosts, but they couldn’t even manage a goal as the stadium mainly emptied before fulltime as tangerine and black scarves were thrown onto the field. United live to fight another day, but ultimately, they look absolutely doomed.