Dundee United run riot against Kilmarnock to boost survival hopes
Dundee United breathed fresh life into their relegation fight after recording only their third win of the season by thrashing Kilmarnock 5-1 at Tannadice.
Mixu Paatelainen’s men knew it was win or bust for their hopes of remaining in the Ladbrokes Premiership as they took on their nearest challengers.
But they managed to rediscover the hunger that has been absent all season as they blew Killie away.
The impressive Blair Spittal netted twice while also teeing-up substitute Mark Durnan and John Rankin during a first-half onslaught. Sean Dillon added a fifth after the break before Josh Magennis’ consolation header.
The Rugby Park men remain 11 points clear of Paatelainen’s basement boys but having shipped four goals or more for the fifth time this term, boss Gary Locke will face new questions over his future after another farcical display.
Paatelainen has not had it easy either, collecting just five points from his first 12 league matches in charge.
In a desperate attempt to turn around that miserable run, the Finn made major changes to the side thumped by Celtic last week.
Ryan McGowan has been sold off to Chinese side Henan Jianye while Paul Dixon was suspended, so Paul Paton came in to make his first start of the campaign. Coll Donaldson, Guy Demel, Spittal and Billy McKay also returned.
Killie, meanwhile, brought midfielder Stevie Smith and striker Magennis back in to start – and the frontman should have done better than aim straight at Eiji Kawashima from five yards out after Gavin Gunning let him wander free to catch Kallum Higganbotham’s early cross.
The Northern Irishman was made to pay for his miss after eight minutes. Simon Murray collected a Ryan Dow centre 12 yards from goal and did well to hold up play until help arrived, laying off for Spittal to rifle a perfect finish into the corner of Jamie MacDonald’s net.
Murray harshly had a second goal ruled out when he was penalised for a barge on Conrad Balatoni but with Spittal performing wonders United did not need to worry.
His set-pieces had given Killie plenty of problems and the hosts finally capitalised from another dangerous corner delivery after 31 minutes as Durnan – on for Donaldson, who was forced off with a head knock – got across his marker to bullet a header through MacDonald’s grasp.
The gloom that has sat over Tannadice all season was well and truly lifted six minutes before the break as Spittal’s cross from the right touchline was allowed to bounce through a crowded box before creeping into the net for United’s third.
And the Tangerines faithful could barely believe it when they scored again on 44 minutes, with Rankin volleying home at the back post from another Spittal cross.
There was not the same spark after the break but Dillon did add a fifth on 78 minutes as he managed to barge his way through Killie’s defence to prod past MacDonald, while Magennis put his side on the scoreboard five minutes from the end as he converted from a Craig Slater corner.
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