By Stewart Buick
The first quarter of the game passed without incident with both sides struggling to establish any fluency in their play. It wasn’t until the twenty-fourth minute that United managed to create a half chance when Blair Spittal played a great ball into Simon Murray who found space well inside the Raith penalty box but Kyle Benedictus was there to dispossess Murray of the ball and clear away the danger.
The next chance in the game fell to the visitors albeit as it was only a half chance when a Kevin McHattie’s free kick from the left-hand side was floated in to the box and nodded back across by Benedictus and it was Declan McManus with the header over the bar.
United finally found the breakthrough much to the delight of the home fans on the forty-fifth minute when Scott Fraser had a free kick on the right-hand side of the box that substitute keeper Conor Brenan got a touch to but fell to Paul Dixon on the left-hand side of the box. His floated cross to the near post was met by Thomas Mikkelsen who nodded home from six yards for his first goal for United.
Half Time: Dundee United 1 – Raith Rovers 0
United started the second half the way the finished the first half with a goal just three minutes after the restart when Dixon went on a rampaging down the left-hand side and his cross was not dealt with by the Raith defence and it fell to Tony Andreu who took a touch before superbly volleying home past Brenan from 12 yards.
After that second goal, it was United who were in the ascendancy and once again it was Mikkelsen who was there to finish off a superb cross to the back post from Murray with his looping header back across the goal into the bottom corner right-hand corner of the net.
United continued to control the rest of the second half with Raith playing much of it in their own half. Murray nearly added to the score line when his half volley was saved well by Brenan. With United in complete control, it was Murray again with a chance from the edge of the box but shot was pushed away by Brenan and eventually it was cleared by the visitors.
On the seventy-eighth-minute debutant Alex Nicholls came on for Mikkelsen who got a standing ovation from the fans. He had the perfect chance to score with his first touch after being set up perfectly by Murray but his shot clipped the outside of the right-hand post.
United were still able to provide excitement for the home fans from van der Velden who played in Spittal with a lovely chip over the Raith defence only for Spittal to fire high and wide. Nicholls then provided the excitement for the home fans after a step over and a drop of the shoulder took him beyond the Raith defence but nothing came of the cross from the right-hand side.
Full Time – Dundee United 3 – Raith Rovers 0
Man of the Match – Thomas Mikkelsen. His two goals proved crucial today and he was a threat in the air all day long with which the Raith defence struggled to cope. His second goal was a brilliant header and he got a standing ovation from the home crowd when he was taken off.
Dundee United; Bell, (C), van der Struijk, Durnan, Dixon, Toshney (Telfer 90), Fraser, Andreu (van der Velden 75), Mikkelsen (Nicholls 77), Murray
Un-used Subs: Zwick(GK), Dillion, Murdoch, Telfer, Robson.
Raith Rovers: Cuthbert (Brenan 29), Thomson, Mvoto, McHattie, Callachan, Barr, Matthews (Hardie 61), Davidson, Stewart, McManus (Stevenson 71)
Un-used subs: Johnstone, Skacel, Thompson, Barr.