Dundee United succumbed to a draw against Motherwell in their final home game of the season, with the performance of their young stars a silver lining.
Goals from Lawrence Shankland and Archie Meekison gave United a comfortable first-half lead at Tannadice but they would be left ruing a 20-minute penalty miss from Shanks.
Chris Long would pull a goal back for the Lanarkshire men early in the second period before fellow-hitman Devante Cole’s header earned the Steelmen a point late on.
The Terrors head for St Mirren on Sunday looking to finish the campaign in seventh spot.
Tangerines start brightly but Lawrence shanks penalty
United showed eight changes from Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Hibs with Ross Doohan, Kerr Smith, Mark Connolly, Adrian Sporle, Meekison, Peter Pawlett, Logan Chalmers and Louis Appere coming in.
It was full debuts for on-loan Celtic goalie Doohan and young midfielder Meekison, while Chalmers was making his first start since returning from an ankle injury.
The Tangerines attacked the game well early doors with Appere and Shankland linking up effectively.
The former’s clip round the corner sat up nicely for Shanks in the box but the Scotland forward saw his shot saved by Liam Kelly.
Meekison’s curled effort on the rebound was cleared off the line by ’Well defender Ricki Lamie.
The Steelmen’s influential box-to-box dynamo Allan Campbell had to exit proceedings injured after just seven minutes and was replaced by Robbie Crawford.
On 13 minutes, the Terrors had the lead as Shankland flicked home his ninth of the season with a deft header from 10 yards out.
Chalmers was given the freedom of Tannadice to race up the right flank and fire in a left-foot cross-cum-shot that Shankland gladly diverted beyond a helpless Kelly.
Jake Hastie tried to get the visitors back into it moments later but fired wide of Doohan’s right-hand post.
Relentless pressing from Meekison and Appere won the Terrors a penalty on 19 minutes as Tyler Magloire brought down the latter inside the area.
Shankland stepped up, with an opportunity to put United two to the good and take his tally to double figures for the season, but skewed his spot-kick wide of Kelly’s right-hand post.
Long and Shankland exchanged blows before the half-hour mark, with both attackers unable to steer their shots on target.
Midfield maestro Meekison makes his mark on full debut
United made it two on 33 minutes with a goal manufactured fresh off the Terrors’ academy production line.
Wide man Chalmers picked out 19-year-old Meekison on the edge of the box and the youngster unleashed from 25 yards for a debut goal.
It was a beautiful, dipping effort that clipped off the post on its way in, much to the delight of all in tangerine.
The impact of Chalmers (21) on the wing was clear to see.
That creative, pacey spark in the wide areas has been missing all season with the Dundonian kid enduring a campaign beset with injuries.
He wasn’t the only Terrors tyke impressing, though. Meekison was marvellous in the middle, Appere energetic and aggressive up top and Kerr Smith, arguably the pick of the bunch, composed and cool in defence.
The 16-year-old centre-half is highly rated and never looked out of place against two quality Premiership strikers in Long and Cole.
Long gives Well hope as shot squirms through Doohan
The Tannadice men started the second half in the same, strong vein with Shankland and Liam Smith linking up fluidly on the near-side touchline.
The former Ayr United men interchanged with aplomb as Shanks’ back-heel found the right-back in the box. Smith’s stinging drive forced Kelly into a smart save.
On 54 minutes, against the run of play, Motherwell found a way back into the game through Long.
Fed by Cole, the English hitman turned Liam Smith inside-out before firing goalwards and straight through Doohan.
It was a feeble attempt at a save by the Celtic stopper as the ball squirmed through his hands and nestled in the back of the net.
Lamie got away with manhandling Shankland just inside the Motherwell half as the game approached the hour-mark.
Carrying a knock, Pawlett went off to be replaced by Ian Harkes on 62 minutes as Motherwell introduced Tony Watt.
The late, late show with Devante Cole
Lamie did well to charge down a raking Chalmers drive as United pushed for a third with 20 minutes remaining.
Meekison went off to the adulation of the few inside Tannadice and was replaced by Calum Butcher as United tried to ride the game out.
Fellow-experienced men Marc McNulty and Jamie Robson also entered the fray with the clock winding down.
They weren’t able to help United get over the line, though, as Cole left it late to crash home a thunderous strike and rescue a point for the visitors.
With that, the curtain came down on the strangest of seasons at Tannadice, once again, in front of no fans.
For all the doom and gloom, the displays of kids like Meekison, Chalmers and Smith prove the future is bright for the Tangerines.
Dundee United (4-3-3): Doohan (GK); L Smith, K Smith, Connolly, Sporle; Pawlett (Harkes 62), Fuchs, Meekison (Butcher 69), Chalmers (McNulty 81), Shankland, Appere (Robson 81).
Subs not used: Deniz (GK), Reynolds, Clark, Edwards and Davidson.
Motherwell (4-4-2): Kelly (GK); O’Donnell, Magloire, Lamie, McGinley; Lawless (Watt 64), Foley (O’Hara 79), Campbell (Crawford 7), Hastie; Long, Cole.
Subs not used: Fox (GK), Carroll, Maguire, Dunne, Cornelius and Gallagher.
Referee: David Dickinson.