DUNDEE UNITED took one step further towards an immediate return to the Premiership after securing a 2-1 victory over Greenock Morton at Cappielow last night.
The Tannadice side came from behind to win the crunch game which will stand them in good stead in the battle to face Falkirk in the play-off semi-final next week.
Morton came out all guns blazing and were rewarded with their aggressive start when Thomas O’Ware’s 7th minute header gave them a deserved lead.
The 3,306-strong Cappielow crowd urged the home team on and they created numerous chances but couldn’t capitalise, whilst the visitors looked stunned.
Morton hit the bar after a powerful effort from Michael Tidser, Gary Oliver nearly netted from close range and the home fans felt aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty after William Edjenguele sent Oliver over in the box, but referee Willie Collum waived play on.
Whatever was said by McKinnon at half-time worked and his side started brightly, miles away from their sheepish approach in the 45-minutes prior.
United suddenly got the breakthrough to kickstart a period of sustained pressure, which saw an impressive Simon Murray effort angling into the top right to bring the Tayside club level. However, Jim Duffy’s side were still in the game as they hoped to end a hapless 9 match streak without a win but it was clear that the ‘Arabs’ were beginning to take hold of the game.
The Irn Bru Challenge Cup winners got a winner after 65 minutes when Blair Spittal struck to give the Tangerines the lead ahead of the reverse fixture on Friday night. The game petered out as United defended their lead for the second leg without any real threat from Morton, who will be disappointed with their first half chances to goals ratio, which let them down.
Speaking after the match, McKinnon admitted his team had pulled off a good result against a top side.
“We didn’t really have any quality up top in the first half but it was a fantastic response in the second half.
“We changed the system, got a lot of pressure on their back four and thoroughly deserved to win the game.
“We had to stop them getting long balls out over the top – that was their outlet. We did that,” he said.
“In the second half the players were outstanding and we scored two really good goals.
“Morton are a really dangerous side. We will show them all the respect they deserve.
“We deployed Simon Murray on the left in a 4-2-3-1 system but he didn’t really have an impact on the game, so we put him up top and he made a real impact straight away.”
Meanwhile, Jim Duffy cast a disappointed figure after seeing his side forfeit a lead.
“We were on the front foot in the first half but fair play to United, they changed it in the second half with two up top and they dominated.
“Once Dundee United scored they controlled the game, our energy levels dropped and we just had to stay in the game.
“At 2-1, what we didn’t want to do was lose another one and the tie would have been gone.
“If we get a goal [on Friday], it’s all square and we can go from there.
“We don’t have the luxury of maybe changing things round to give us that bit of impetus when it’s going against us and that showed today.
“We have to recharge the batteries and go to Tannadice on Friday, throw everything at it and give it a go.”
The game on Friday at Tannadice is sure to be a cracker with both teams playing for the place against Falkirk to determine who will face the 11th placed Premiership team for a place in the top flight.
Morton: Gaston, McDonagh, O’Ware, Lamie, Russell, Forbes (Doyle ’76), Murdoch, Lindsay, Tidser (Tiffoney ’91), Oliver, Shankland (Oyenuga ’81)
Dundee United: Bell, Murdoch, Durnan, Edjenguele, Robson, Andreu, Kuate, Flood, Spittal, Murray (Coote ’92), Mikkelsen (Allardice ’85).