JIM SPENCE: The Championship traits Dundee United must show fans they still possess after cup mishaps

I said recently, with Dundee United going well in the Championship, that Jim Goodwin is long enough in the tooth to know football has a habit of delivering nasty surprises.

So it proved with the Tangerines being tossed out of two cup competitions in succession by third tier sides.

They now need to reassure fans that they’re not off the boil and can retain their fine league form.

The Scottish Cup defeat at Queen of the South is more damaging to income and status than the loss at Falkirk in the SPFL Trust Trophy, but both upsets are hurtful to a club of United’s stature.

Delirious Queens players celebrate after Mathew Cudjoe’s decisive missed penalty. Image: SNS

With Raith Rovers on their heels in the Championship, Jim Goodwin’s side must redouble their efforts, tighten their defence and sharpen up in front of goal to maintain their title push.

Eyes on the prize must be the watchword and, disappointing though the cup exits are, promotion is still the be-all and end-all this season.

A cup run would have been nice, but it would have provided little in the way of consolation if it had come at the expense of injuries, suspensions and another season in the second tier.

St Johnstone’s biggest requirement in the January transfer window is a striker.

Craig Levein has a fluent, hard-working midfield and a decent back line, which has conceded fewer goals than five other Premiership sides, but, as the most impoverished scorers in the Premiership, with just eight goals to their name and Nicky Clark out injured, his side needs someone who can regularly ripple the onion bag.

St Johnstone manager Craig Levein.
St Johnstone manager Craig Levein. Image: SNS.

Levein will be using all his contacts in the game to locate the quality needed up front.

There have been suggestions that he might need to move a couple of players out to get new faces in, but if he can’t persuade players to go – and it’s often easier said than done – then the board will need to sanction some unbudgeted outlay to ensure the best possible chance of climbing the table to safety.

Those running football seem determined to ruin the game.

VAR has already robbed fans of the spontaneity of celebration with the interminable wait to see whether or not a goal has been given.

The same excruciating deliberation to judge whether someone’s arm is a hundredth of a millimetre offside is also driving fans demented.

Now the authorities are looking at introducing a sin bin, like rugby or ice hockey.

Josh Mulligan is shown a red card by referee David Munro. Image: SNS
Dundee’s Josh Mulligan was sent off against Kilmarnock only for an “independent review panel” to deem the decision, which was subject to a VAR check,  an officiating error. Image: SNS

I’m not actually against the concept; in many ways think it would be a good way to deal with those fouls which aren’t dangerous or reckless enough to see an ordering off, but impede or interrupt an opponent’s progress. Rocky Bushiri’s foul on Owen Beck at Dens Park last week would’ve been a perfect scenario for a 10-minute sit out.

The tackle probably failed to meet the red card threshold, but crudely halted a terrific run from Beck, who’d sailed past three opponents only to be upended, denying him a clear run on goal.

But between VAR holding up play and adding to the game’s duration, a sin bin just adds another layer of bureaucracy to a game which is already becoming too unwieldy for officials to manage


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