A late goal from Scott McDonald gave Dundee United a hard earned win over Brechin to keep them out in front at the top of the Championship.
After their midweek Irn Bru Cup win over Cowdenbeath with a much changed team, United reverted to their strongest available line-up. With William Edjenguele only fit enough for the bench after taking a knock against Queen of the South last week, Paul Quinn was handed a league debut in central defence. Up front Scott Fraser was in for the suspended Paul McMullan.
United were on the front foot from the start and were a whisker away from taking the lead in the tenth minute. Billy King made ground on the left before switching play to Fraser on the opposite flank. He cut in before unleashing a curling shot that Graeme Smith in the Brechin goal brilliantly touched away.
When the visitors got a sight of goal Andy Jackson had a go from the edge of the area, but his shot flew a yard or so wide. City were having a decent spell and moments later Jackson sent a cut back flashing across the face of the United goal, but there were no takers.
Normal service was soon resumed and when United reached the other end of the park there were appeals for a penalty when James Keatings went down after an Aron Lynas challenge. Referee Euan Anderson wasn’t interest and waved play on. The next attack saw Fraser square the ball to McDonald whose shot was blocked.
The home team went close again when a Keatings cross reached Mark Durnan in the middle. His header struck Finn Graham on the back of the head and the ball flew wide.
Another sight of goal came when Sam Stanton threaded a pass through for Keatings to chase. Smith was quick off his line and got to the ball just before the attacker.
In the 41st minute a Keatings free kick was headed over by McDonald from ten yards and there was just a hint of the home crowd becoming frustrated.
A minute later Brechin were almost ahead in bizarre circumstances. A Jordan Sinclair cross was deflected against his own post by Durnan, then ‘keeper Harry Lewis fumbled the rebound and the ball struck woodwork a second time. Again the goalie couldn’t gather and when the ball bounced down, Durnan had to hack it to safety.
Early in the second period Jackson broke down the left for Brechin and it took a diving block from Quinn to prevent his cut back reaching Kalvin Orsi in the middle. Seconds later the home goal was under threat as Sinclair let fly from the edge of the area and it needed a great fingertip save from Lewis to prevent a shock opener. Those attacks and the lack of a home goal brought boos from the United fans.
Jackson was having a fine game and in the 54th minute he sent a 16 yard shot a yard wide of Lewis’ right post.
United needed to be doing more and just after the hour mark club captain Willo Flood replaced Keatings as boss Ray McKinnon looked to get his team going.
It almost brought a goal when Stewart Murdoch let fly from the right of the area, but again Smith pulled off a fine save. When Fraser had a go from distance, his shot was charged down.
Then minutes from the end United finally went ahead.
Murdoch crossed from the right and when the ball broke off substitute Patrick N’Koyi, McDonald was there to blast it high into the net.
The fan celebrated more in relief than anything else, but what mattered was their team had done enough to maintain their perfect start to the league season.