Full steam ahead for Dundee United with engine-room at full power

Fraser Fyvie celebrates his second goal and United’s third in their recent 3-1 win over Dunfermline.

After a difficult patch towards the end of August, Dundee United have quietly put together a decent unbeaten run of six games that’s taken them back to just a point off the top of the Championship and into the quarter-finals of the Irn-Bru Cup.

A big part of the reason for the rise up the league table has undoubtedly been the blossoming partnership between James Keatings and Scott McDonald in attack.

The three goals they shared went a long way to securing vital wins over Morton and Dunfermline that saw Ray McKinnon’s team show why they’re promotion favourites.

As well as that pair have done, and as big performers as they’ll be in any success United have this season, there is a strong argument that it’s deeper in the line-up where the big strength of this unit lies.

Scott McDonald

A feature of those ’Ton and Pars victories was the way they took a grip on the proceedings in the middle of the pitch and, of course, at East End Park just under a fortnight ago midfield anchorman Fraser Fyvie popped up with two of the three goals.

Such contributions will always be welcome but, over the season, there’s no question the biggest impact of Fyvie and those in his immediate vicinity will be their ability to control games.

With some decent teams in the second tier, at times doing that is going to be a battle. But such is the strength in depth McKinnon has managed to get in that area of the pitch, perhaps the biggest fight the central midfielders at Tannadice face is just getting into the team.

Right now Fyvie and Dutchman Jordie Briels are the men in possession of the shirts and the form of these last two league wins suggests they could take some dislodging.

Given his pedigree, it would be no big surprise to see former Aberdeen, Wigan and Hibs man Fyvie stay where he is between now and next May.

Dutch midfielder Jordie Briels is in fine form for United at the moment.

When he signed he was clearly lacking match fitness. That’s been addressed and, in the last two games in particular, Fyvie has looked a class above Championship level.

Likewise, after a problem with an ankle injury picked up in the Irn-Bru Cup, Briels is now producing the robust form he gave a hint of during the Betfred Cup ties in July and that, his manager predicts, will make him invaluable on winter pitches.

As well as both are playing, they know any drop in standards will see others ready to step up.

In terms of anchoring the midfield, after a summer of niggling fitness issues, club captain Willo Flood, ironically operating as a stand-in right-back, has shown he’s back to 100%.

Sam Stanton’s another who’s had fitness issues and, while he’s rarely been unavailable, a bout of tendonitis in his knee has made training an issue.

The man on loan from Hibs is getting better and, as his weekend performance against Linfield in the Irn-Bru showed, he’s pushing hard for a return to the starting line-up.

A plus with Stanton is his ability to play in either a holding role or push further up and add to the goal threat.

When he gets over the foot he broke back in March, in games where United are going to be encamped in the opposition half, Scott Fraser should come into his own.

Last, but not least, kid Scott Allardice has shown he won’t let anyone down when he gets his chance, though his last two appearances in the Irn-Bru suggest he may have a future at centre-half.