04302017

Dundee United lift Challenge Cup with victory over St Mirren

Thomas Mikkelsen scores

Second-half substitute Thomas Mikkelsen headed the deciding goal in the Irn Bru Cup final

Dundee United lifted the Scottish Challenge Cup after overcoming St Mirren at Fir Park.

Goals in either half from Tony Andreu – a sensational volley – and Thomas Mikkelsen eclipsed Rory Loy’s strike.

The Buddies had created the better first-half chances and also had spells of dominance in the second period.

It was the Tannadice club’s first victory in the tournament, which features clubs from the Championship, League One and League Two.

And this year’s competition also included Premiership colt teams and sides from Northern Ireland and Wales.

Chance after chance fell St Mirren’s way in the Lanarkshire sunshine on a pristine pitch in front of 8,089 spectators.

Loy hit the post, Lewis Morgan produced a wonderful breakaway from the United centre-halves, drew Cammy Bell and then shot across goal and Gary MacKenzie sent a header past the post when he was totally unmarked.

United had hardly threatened Billy O’Brien until Andreu produced a diamond of a goal which flew past the Paisley goalkeeper, a first-time curling volley with the outside of his boot.

It was a goal worthy of winning a cup, but it actually only gave United the lead for seconds.

Dundee United celebrate<!–

Andreu (far left) opened the scoring in impressive fashion

From the restart, Jack Ross’ side went up the park and Gary Irvine cut back for Loy to equalise.

Tangerines manager Ray McKinnon’s fury at his team’s inability to stay switched on was clear, but there was no doubt that St Mirren, still anchored at the bottom of the Championship, had been the better team.

Nick van der Velden was replaced with less than an hour gone by Mikkelsen and his introduction would change the game.

Simon Murray whipped in a cross from the left and the substitute met it with a powerful header beyond O’Brien.

It was against the run of play, but goals win cups and Mikkelsen’s effort had the scent of glory all over it.

The quality of the game was never the same in the second half, but that seemed to suit McKinnon and his team simply saw out the last minutes, nursing their lead over the finishing line.

They will now hope to follow their cup triumph with promotion to the Premiership, with the Tangerines currently in the play-off positions.

Post-match reaction

Dundee United manager Ray McKinnon told BBC Alba: “I’m absolutely delighted. It was a tough game and a lot of pressure on us, but I thought the guys delivered.

“There has been a bit of criticism our way, probably self-inflicted.

“We have got ourselves caught in battles and the message today was to get the ball down and play – and I think they did that.

“A lot of credit must go to St Mirren – they made it very difficult for us.

“But we have won a cup, we have had the experience of dealing with the final and the pressure that goes with it.

“So that will be good for me and the players for the rest of the season. They should take a lot of confidence from this.”

St Mirren manager Jack Ross told BBC Alba: “It was a very evenly contested, competitive match and I thought we had the better opportunities.

“But congratulations to Dundee United, it is about taking your chances on the day.

“I can’t fault my players – the effort was terrific. We continued to play in the manner we have done and the level of performance was very much at what it has been.

“Despite our league position, this is a good group and we will use this to continue to move forward.

“We have a real focus about us and they know their performance level deserved more.”

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