Dundee United maintained their 100% record and spot at the top of the Championship as a Lawrence Shankland brace led them to victory at Dunfermline.
The 24-year-old striker struck beyond hapless home goalkeeper Ryan Scully twice in the first half at East End Park to make it seven goals in three league games and leave United three points clear at the top of the table ahead of next Friday’s Dundee derby.
Boss Robbie Neilson made just one change from the hard-fought 2-1 win at Partick Thistle a fortnight ago with midfielder Ian Harkes coming in for Mark Connolly, meaning Calum Butcher partnered captain Mark Reynolds in the centre of defence.
Any worries of rustiness after their break were soon abated as the Tangerines had the first chance of the match on nine minutes when Harkes picked up on Pars goalkeeper Scully’s wayward kick out and played in Shankland. However, the on-form hitman blasted over.
The former Ayr striker made no mistake just two minutes later, though, as he latched onto Paul McMullan’s pass and smashed the ball through Scully to give the visitors the lead.
Shankland had another gilt edge chance to make it a double on 13 minutes but was denied by home defender Stuart Morrison’s last-ditch challenge.
Not to be denied, on the half-hour mark Shankland got his second after a lovely flowing move from United. Louis Appere released McMullan with a cute flick before the winger raced past his marker and laid the ball on a plate for Shankland to nod under Scully.
Five minutes later, Scully made amends for his squirming attempts at saves by denying Shankland a first-half hat-trick as he stooped low to turn the forward’s flicked effort out for a corner after another dangerous McMullan delivery.
After the break, half-time Dunfermline substitute Kyle Turner called Benjamin Siegrist into action but his shot from the middle of the goal was straight at the United goalie.
It was the Terrors, though, who nearly put the game beyond doubt on 50 minutes as Shankland knocked McMullan’s delivery into the path of Nicky Clark and his effort with the outside of his right boot curled just wide.
Three minutes later, former United man Ryan Dow and Kevin Nisbet combined but the latter blasted the wrong side of Siegrist’s right-hand post.
On 58 minutes, the Pars threatened again. This time centre-half Lee Ashcroft skewed his header over the bar from Paul Paton’s whipped free-kick.
On 67 minutes, when it looked easier to score, substitute Peter Pawlett missed an open goal from two yards out as he, remarkably, sclafed Shankland’s delivery wide.
If that should have put the game beyond all doubt, the Terrors were cursing Shankland’s wasted penalty on 77 minutes after Turner handled Liam Smith’s delivery in the box. Pars keeper Scully denied the striker a hat-trick from 12 yards with a good save.
Despite the missed chances and being under the cosh slightly in the second period, in the end, Shankland’s double was enough to pick up three points and send 2,550 Arabs up the road happy and in high spirits for Friday’s derby at Tannadice.
Dunfermline (4-4-2): Scully (GK); Comrie, Martin, Ashcroft, Morrison; Paton (C), Beadling (Todd 78), Dow, Coley (Turner 45); Nisbet, Ryan (McCann 68).
Subs not used: Gill (GK), McGill, Devine and Edwards.
Dundee United (4-4-2): Siegrist (GK); L Smith, Robson, Reynolds (C), Butcher; Harkes, Stanton (King 82), McMullan, Clark (Pawlett 60); Appere, Shankland (Sow 90+2).
Subs not used: Deniz (GK), Sporle, C Smith and Watson.
Referee: Euan Anderson.
Attendance: 5,888 (2,550 United fans).