Dundee United all but booked their place in the knockout stages of the Premier Sports Cup with a 1-0 win over Arbroath yesterday.
The result at Tannadice, courtesy of a fantastic Charlie Mulgrew free-kick on 21 minutes, sees United sit top of Group B on nine points, practically through the initial section for the first time since 2017.
It’s a big objective ticked off for new head coach Tam Courts, as they battled their way to victory against an impressive Red Lichties side.
But what did we learn from the clash as both teams get closer to their league campaigns kicking off?
Old heads can still cut it
For all the young talent on show, it was the experienced campaigners who stood out for both sides.
For United, goalscorer Mulgrew (35) showed his class with a wonderful left-foot finish from 35 yards and strolled it all afternoon at centre-half.
Meanwhile, in midfield, Calum Butcher (30) was the star performer for the Tangerines.
Breaking up play, starting off attacks and organising from a deep-lying role in front of a back three, the Englishman was immense.
For the Lichties, Bobby Linn (35) still provides the main threat after all his years with the club and, you imagine, will continue to be a key figure for them in the Championship this season.
He was a nuisance down the left for Liam Smith all day, while Nicky Low (29) was hugely-influential and composed in the middle of the park.
United academy project bearing fruit
That said, the Tangerines kids who played showed up very well indeed.
Seven academy graduates played a part at Tannadice, with Lewis Neilson, Jamie Robson, Chris Mochrie and Logan Chalmers starting and Darren Watson, Archie Meekison and Kieran Freeman checking in.
Neilson was particularly impressive at centre-half, breaking forward when he could with the insurance policy of Mulgrew and Ryan Edwards sitting back behind him.
Mochrie was full of energy in the middle of the park and should’ve laid on Lawrence Shankland for a tap-in before Arbroath stopper Derek Gaston intervened.
Darren Watson added an injection of pace and enthusiasm in the final half-hour, while Jamie Robson looked steady and assured as ever in his first action of the season.
It’s, hopefully, a sign of things to come in the Terrors’ much-vaunted youth project – with more kids hoping to make a name for themselves when United’s Premiership campaign kicks off with a trip to Aberdeen on August 1.
Henderson can star for Lichties
When the second-tier term gets under way for Arbroath, you feel Liam Henderson is going to be an important player for Dick Campbell’s men.
Signed from Edinburgh City over the summer, any doubts over whether the 24-year-old can make the step-up from League Two to the Championship should be quashed after his display against Premiership United.
Slotting in alongside skipper Ricky Little, in place of regular starter Tam O’Brien, he fit seamlessly into Campbell well-oiled machine.
Big, strong and aggressive but also good on the ball, he should be able to deal with whatever this season throws at him.