20 April 2024

Chris Mochrie effort enough as Dundee United celebrate return to Premiership

20 April 2024

Dundee United celebrated their return to the cinch Premiership at the first time of asking after substitute Chris Mochrie’s 78th-minute goal broke the resistance of 10-man Ayr to secure a 1-0 victory and spark a Tannadice title party.

A crowd of almost 10,000 home supporters looked like they might end up frustrated as Scott Brown’s stubborn side kept them at bay, but the dismissal of Nick McAllister on the hour paved the way for Jim Goodwin’s team to get the win they needed, resulting in a post-match pitch invasion.

Although they are not mathematically assured of finishing top of the Championship just yet – second-placed Raith Rovers would have to overturn a six-point deficit, while requiring an unrealistic goal difference swing of 36 over the closing two matches of the campaign.

A run of just five wins from 12 league matches in the opening months of 2024 had threatened to derail their title bid, but United regained their poise at the perfect time, with four consecutive wins over Rovers, Queen’s Park, Morton and now Ayr taking them clear of their rivals when it mattered most.

Goodwin can now start preparing with clarity for a return to the top flight, 11 months after his side were officially relegated from the top flight.

The absence of key midfielder Ross Docherty from the teamsheet through injury served as a pre-match blow for the expectant home support.

However, the hosts started with intent and Kai Fotheringham shot over from just outside the box before Tony Watt’s low angled shot was blocked in a crowded six-yard box. Fotheringham then headed wide from a Glenn Middleton cross.

Ayr had a couple of threatening moments when Kurt Willoughby saw an angled effort from inside the box deflected behind before Mark McKenzie had a low shot blocked.

At the other end, Craig Sibbald’s powerful strike from 25 yards out was deflected just wide.

United finished the half strongly and Fotheringham saw an attempt deflected just over the crossbar before Watt scuffed a tame effort straight at Josh Clarke after strike-partner Louis Moult flicked a throw-in into his path.

The home support were starting to suspect they might be made to wait a while longer, but a straight red card for McAllister after he caught Middleton with an elbow gave them fresh impetus for the closing half hour.

Moult shot over from a Middleton cross and Sam McClelland and Fotheringham both headed wide from corners as United continued to be frustrated.

But they eventually made the breakthrough with 12 minutes remaining when substitute Mochrie – who had just entered the fray two minutes previously – forced home the rebound from eight yards out after Watt’s header from Wotherspoon’s cross had been blocked by Clarke.

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