Dundee United started the new year with a gutsy goalless draw against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
The Tangerines were rather frustrating first-foots for the Dons, battling their way to a precious point despite the home team enjoying most of the possession.
This has to be considered a terrific result for Micky Mellon’s men and they stay in the Premiership’s top six, albeit they have been overtaken by the now fifth-placed Livingston courtesy of their victory at Easter Road.
This wasn’s quite a backs-to-the-wall display, though, with Lawrence Shankland in particular close to finding the net when he hit the bar early on.
The Tangerines had made two changes to the team that kicked off at Celtic Park in midweek.
It was supposed to be just one but they suffered a selection setback during the warm-up when central defender Ryan Edwards picked up a knock. Lewis Neilson was promoted from the substitutes’ list for a surprise start.
There was also no Marc McNulty, who has a foot injury, and he was replaced by Louis Appere in attack alongside Shankland. Absent again were injured duo Jeando Fuchs and Calum Butcher.
United boss Mellon had bemoaned the lack of belief his players showed when losing to the Hoops so was looking for more from his men against the Dons.
There was a minute’s silence held before kick-off in memory of legendary Tannadice boss Jim McLean and former Dons player Chic McLelland.
The visitors came within a whisker of taking the lead on nine minutes following a sweeping move that was started by Nicky Clark. Lying on the ground, he still managed to lay the ball off to Ian Harkes, who then found Shankland. The Scotland man cut in from the left before smacking the Dons bar with a terrific 20-yard strike.
On 12 minutes, the hosts had a penalty claim waved away by referee Kevin Clancy when Ryan Hedges went down in the box just as he prepared to shoot.
United goalie Benjamin Siegrist then dived to his left to save a header from Ross McCrorie before smothering a low drive from Hedges.
The home team were dominating possession and nearly edged ahead on 38 minutes when Hedges’ low shot just missed Siegrist’s left-hand post.
In the final minute of the first half, Dons’ defender Andy Considine met a corner full on with his forehead but the ball flew just over the Tangerines bar.
Up at the other end, just seconds later, Shankland wasn’t too far away with a volley after some United pressure.
Visitors’ midfielder Peter Pawlett was injured by a challenge from McCrorie just after the restart, battled on but was eventually replaced by sub Dillon Powers on 51 minutes.
The visitors then had two rapid-fire chances to take the lead when a loose defensive header fell at Shankland’s feet but his shot got a deflection that took the power off it. The ball then bobbled about until Jamie Robson fired wide of the post.
On 67 minutes, United’s Clark hit the Aberdeen wall with a freekick from a decent position just outside the box before Curtis Main of the hosts failed to trouble Siegrist with a speculative shot five minutes later.
The Tannadice men were showing some real ambition in attack and almost grabbed the lead on 80 minutes when Clark’s angled freekick from the right hit teammate Mark Connolly on the stomach, forcing Aberdeen keeper Joe Lewis into a fine reaction save.
With just three minutes to go, Shankland almost got the goal he would have deserved when Lewis tipped his strike around the post then, with United now doing all the pressing, Robson broke upfield but couldn’t broke towards the home box but couldn’t control his attempt and it flew wide.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Hoban, Considine, Main (Edmondson 83), McGinn (Wright 63), Hedges, Taylor, Hayes, Ferguson, Kennedy (Cosgrove 75), McCrorie (Campbell 83). Subs not used: Woods, Logan, Ojo, Ngwenya, Duncan.
Dundee United: Siegrist, L. Smith, Connolly, Reynolds, Pawlett (Powers 51), Clark, Robson, Harkes, Shankland, Appere, Neilson. Subs not used: Deniz, Sporle, McMullan, Bolton, Fotheringham, Davidson, Neilson, K. Smith, Hutchinson.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.