United came undone in the Betfred Cup Quarter Final as Greenock Morton progressed to the semi-final following a 2-1 victory. United, 2-0 down at half-time, fought back in the second half, but van der Velden’s 55th minute goal was not enough to bring about a United comeback.
By Stuart Norris
United kicked off with four changes following Saturday’s defeat to Falkirk and were up against a familiar face in Gavin Gunning at the centre of the Morton defence. With both teams having beaten Premiership teams in the previous rounds, expectations were high in both camps.
The first 20 minutes were cagey, with both teams struggling to find rhythm, but United slightly edging it at that stage.
The game then burst to life over a 10 minute period, but unfortunately not in United’s favour.
On 23 mins, Blair Spittal took a speculative shot, which McNeil fumbled, but crucially survived. A minute later United were behind. Gunning headed a through ball over the United defence to the on-running Quitongo who hammered his shot past Bell.
0n 29 mins following a flowing United move Spittal appeared to be brought down in the box, but referee Dallas waved play on. Again the game swung to the other end where Morton won a corner. United were once again undone by the resultant cross when O’Ware headed past Bell to put Morton 2-0 up. Morton’s confidence was now high and could have been further ahead when a cut back by Quitongo to McDonagh led to the striker shooting just too high.
United pushed to find a way back into the game, with most of the pressure before half time. Two chances fell to Fraser. The first shot flew well over the bar, but as United continued to press, United’s best effort of the half led to Fraser’s powerful low shot being pushed round the post by McNeil.
Morton started the second half on the front foot, winning a series of corners.
United’s first chance of the half fell again to Fraser who shot over under pressure. In 55 mins, United were back in the game. Fraser was again involved as he headed through the Morton defence. Van der Velden found himself through on McNeil and shot powerfully into net to give United a lifeline.
United were now the team on the front foot, with a powerful van der Velden shot coming off the post, but the linesman had flagged for a narrow offside. United supporters were now in full voice sensing an unlikely comeback.
Simon Murray came on with 30 mins remaining for the industrious Fraser as United continued to search for an equaliser.
On 71 mins Spittal came agonisingly close to an equaliser as he was played through on goal by Smith. His low drive was brilliantly saved by McNeil, then as United carved their way through the defence, the ball just wouldn’t drop in time for Murray who was unable to control his shot.
With a rare foray into the United half Forbes shot just wide of Bell’s left hand post.
On 83 minutes United again came close as Murray stabbed a foot at a loose ball, but again was inches over.
United were now throwing everything at Morton, but were frustrated by a resolute defence.
Following a frantic additional four minutes the referee brought the game to an end and with it United’s League Cup run.
Man of the Match
In a game were no United player stood out amid much endeavour, Cammy Smith was industrious throughout.
Mcneill, O’ Ware, Gunning, Doyle, Oliver (Tiffoney), Forbes Oyenuga (McAleer), Lindsay, Russell, Mcdonagh, Quiongo (Nesbitt)
Subs: Gaston, Scullion, Mcaleer, Strapp
Bell, Dixon, Toshney, Spittal, Murdoch, Fraser (Murray), Obadeyi (Coote), Edjenguele, C Smith, van der Struijk (Donaldson), van der Velden
Subs: Zwick, Dillon, Robson, B Smith
Ref. Andrew Dallas