A last gasp strike from Barry Wilson gave 10-man Caley Thistle an unlikely 1-0 victory in a scrappy affair in Inverness.
Last weekend Caley Thistle lost 2 late goals to Celtic to crash out of the Scottish Cup, after leading 1-0 for most of the match thanks to an 18th minute Graham Bayne goal.
An 89th minute equaliser from Celtic defender Steven Pressley was followed by a rare Kenny Miller goal, knocking Charlie Christie’s side out of the competition.
Incidentally, it was Caley Thistle who actually put Dundee United out of the Scottish Cup in the previous round, after a 16th minute Russell Duncan strike gave them a 1-0 win.
So, Craig Levein’s side travelled to Inverness once again, determined to avenge their Scottish Cup defeat – against a side still in shock after that late Celtic comeback.
Not surprisingly it was Dundee United who dominated for long spells of the match, but once again failed to break down a stubborn home defence, which was expertly marshalled by Darren Dods – who ironically is set for a move to Tannadice at the end of the season.
Craig Levein only made 2 changes to the side which drew 0-0 with Hibernian a fortnight ago, with Morgaro Gomis and Jon Daly reinstated to the starting line-up at the expense of Craig Conway and Collin Samuel.
Dundee United found out earlier this week that Craig Conway’s season is over, after the 22-year-old midfielder broke a bone in his foot – that same over hyped metatarsal injury that almost forced English International David Beckham to miss the 2002 World Cup.
United struggled without the talented Craig Conway in the starting eleven, with frontmen Jon Daly and Noel Hunt failing to put the finishing touch to any of Barry Robson’s crosses into the penalty area.
It was probably the first time this season that Dundee United were caught offside more than their opponents, with Jon Daly straying into offside positions several times during the 1st half.
Most of United’s chances were coming from outside the penalty box, with a 20-yard effort from captain Barry Robson being tipped round the post by keeper Michael Fraser in the 23rd minute.
Whilst a 33rd minute 22-yard strike from Noel Hunt flew over the crossbar, after he accepted a clever pass from Jon Daly through the middle.
Lee Wilkie almost gifted Caley Thistle the lead just after the half hour mark, giving away an unnecessary corner which resulted in Ross Tokely’s header going just over the bar.
Noel Hunt should have opened the scoring for Dundee United within minutes of the restart, after sending his close-range header wide of Fraser’s right-hand post.
Then, Hunt missed another glorious chance in the 61st minute when he somehow blasted a shot wide from just 6-yards – you just got the feeling it wasn’t going to be United’s afternoon.
Collin Samuel, a 2nd half substitute for David Robertson, also had a couple of great opportunities to score – heading a 70th minute Christian Kalvenes cross wide of the right-hand post and then curling an 18-yard shot just wide.
At this stage it looked like the match had 0-0 written all over it, especially when Caley Thistle defender Grant Munro saw a straight red-card for an awful challenge at the half-way line, lunging in late on midfielder Barry Robson.
Although, Barry Wilson and the son of former Dundee United player Mixu Paatelainen combined late in the hame to send Craig Levein’s side back to Dundee with nothing, after the visiting defence switched off late in the game.
24-year-old Markus Paatelainen came on as a 73rd minute substitute for midfielder John Rankin and was influential in Caley Thistle’s injury-time winner, after crossing to the unmarked Barry Wilson at the backpost.
Derek Stille saved Wilson’s initial shot, but the United defence failed to react quickly enough, allowing Graham Bayne to give Paatelainen space to cross the ball back into the danger zone.
It’s the 2nd time that Dundee United have come away from the Caledonian Stadium on the end of a 1-0 defeat in 2007, but on both occasions United dominated much of the procession and were unlucky not to at least leave with a draw.
The only difference between the 2 sides on both occasions have been man-of-the-match performances from Caley defender Darren Dods and United’s inability to score even the simplest of chances.
Caley Thistle 1-0 Dundee United