Beset by a number of difficulties, ranging from serious off-field matters to a lengthy injury list, the solution from Peter Houston and his side has been to simply take it on the chin and plough on regardless.
A number of postponements have disrupted their rhythm of late but the haphazard fixturing has done little to dilute their determination. If anything, a siege mentality has developed inside Tannadice, bringing the players closer together as if to rail against the outside world.
The introduction of a Celtic- style pre-match huddle has strengthened their sense of unity, the mass celebrations that followed Garry Kenneth’s late equalising goal against Kilmarnock another clear sign everyone is pulling together.
Since a surprise home defeat to St Mirren in early November, United are unbeaten in eight matches, albeit seven of those have finished in draws. Their slender resources are being stretched to the limit, however. Jon Daly was again thrust in to a central defensive role to help out a backline deprived of Scott Severin, Paul Dixon, Darren Dods and Mihael Kovacevic, only to be sent off midway through the second half for a second yellow card. He will now miss Wednesday’s match away to St Mirren, as will Scott Robertson who was also dismissed.
United, though, have faced a number of challenges recently and have come through them all relatively unscathed. Sean Dillon sees no reason why that shouldn’t continue. “That [off-field stories] doesn’t affect the dressing room,” said the United defender. “We’re a really tight group. We’re down to the bare bones so it hasn’t been easy for us. We’re just sticking together through this difficult time. I don’t see any difference in any of the players despite what’s been written in the papers of late.”
For Kilmarnock, the mood was more one of frustration than satisfaction. This was the fourth match in a row without victory, and the concession of a late goal – for the third home game in succession – was enough for some in the home crowd to boo the players off the pitch. Given the Rugby Park side remain in fourth place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, it was a reaction that bemused Frazer Wright.
“I don’t think they should be booing us when you look at where we are,” said the Kilmarnock defender. “This time last year we were bottom of the league.”
On a more positive note, Conor Sammon’s stock continues to rise, the Irishman netting a first-half goal to take his haul for the season to 17. His notch here was again supplied by Alexei Eremenko, who was dismissed in the second-half for a sly kick at Robertson. Sammon turned down a move to Scunthorpe United last week and Wright hopes his team-mate would remain at Rugby Park until the summer at least.
“If he stays and scores another 10 goals you don’t know who might bid for him at the end of the season,” he said.