Friday 4th August 2017

AS part of Sons 24, we are once again taking an in-depth look at the nine teams who stand between Dumbarton and the points they need to achieve their goal this season.

The seventh part of the series focuses on Dundee United, who were challenging for the title in the first half of last season but began to unravel after their second defeat at Dumbarton on Hogmanay. After a strong close season boosting their squad, another challenge is likely from the Tannadice men, who are anxious to return to the top flight.

Please note that the views in this article are not necessarily those of Dumbarton FC, its board or any staff.

Dumbarton v Dundee United: Saturday, October 28; Saturday, April 7.

Dundee United v Dumbarton: Saturday, September 9; Saturday, February 17.

Last season’s meetings with Dumbarton:

Saturday, August 13 2016- Dumbarton 1 Dundee United 0
Saturday, October 22 2016 – Dundee United 2 Dumbarton 1
Saturday, December 31 2016 – Dumbarton 1 Dundee United 0
Saturday, April 29 2017 – Dundee United 2 Dumbarton 2

Season 2017/18 so far: Betfred League Cup sectional matches –

Saturday, July 15 – Dundee United 2 Raith Rovers 0
Tuesday, July 18 – Buckie Thistle 0 Dundee United 3
Sunday, July 23 – Dundee United 4 Cowdenbeath 1
Sunday, July 30 – Dundee 1 Dundee United 1 (Dundee United won on penalties)

Signings: Jordie Briels (Fortuna Sittard); James Keatings and Sam Stanton (Hibernian); Billy King (Hearts); Harry Lewis (Southampton); Scott McDonald (Motherwell); Paul McMullan (Celtic); Deniz Mehmet (Port Vale); Patrick N’Koyi (MMV Maastricht); Tam Scobbie (St Johnstone).

First four league games: Inverness CT (A); Queen of the South (H); Brechin City (H); St Mirren (A).

The run-in (last four league games): Dumbarton (A); Falkirk (H); Queen of the South (A); Livingston (H).

Analysis: The newly-relegated teams in the Championship haven’t often had its own way as long as Dumbarton have been around. You could have asked a Hibs or St Mirren fan about that last year. And a further 12 months down the line, with a new season on the horizon, you can add Dundee United to that list.

Despite their high finish in last season’s Championship, Dundee United found Dumbarton a major hurdle. They were the only team not to take a single point at the Rock and one of only two teams not to even score there, the other being Raith Rovers. Games at Tannadice were barely any more fruitful – despite taking a 2-0 lead they were left clinging on for full points on Sons’ first visit, and needed a late equaliser to take a 2-2 draw in the second.

The Arabs were imperious at Tannadice last season, not losing a single home game in the league. It was their form away from their own backyard which saw their title challenge eventually falter. They failed to win a single away match in the second half of the season and although they won away to both Falkirk and Morton in the play-offs, it was an away defeat at Hamilton which sealed their fate. In order to improve on those fortunes, United must be better travellers this time around.

If they want a squad which can hurt Dumbarton, though, they’ve gone the right way about strengthening it over the close season. Billy King and Paul McMullan have each scored against Sons for Hearts and Dunfermline in recent seasons, McMullan doing so as recently as March – he got the only goal in the Pars’ 5-1 win that wasn’t scored by Nicky Clark. As for James Keatings, Hamilton Accies and Hibs have both had the benefit of the striker’s prowess against Dumbarton. He’s something of a lucky mascot for teams competing for promotion as well – along with Hibs and the Accies, he’s also helped Hearts to promotion to the top flight. He just never seems to stay at a club to play in it.

After the disappointment with which last season ended, the target for Dundee United this season will be simple – promotion, ideally as champions, but by whatever means necessary. They are all too aware of how tricky a division the Championship can be, and that their visits to Dumbarton will not be easy ones. However, the ammunition is there for United to be right at the sharp end this season, and if they can maintain their home record and improve their record on the road, their goal should be in sight.

Verdict: All things being equal, Dundee United should make a more convincing go of challenging for the title this year. They need a good start, and away trips to Inverness and St Mirren early doors are the perfect chance to put a marker down.

Join the debate @dumbartonfc and #sons24

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