Dundee United 2-1 Hibernian: McGrath converts late penalty to boost survival hopes

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Steven Fletcher powers home a header to give Dundee United an early lead
Fletcher powered home a header to give Dundee United an early lead against his former club

Dundee United revived their hopes of Scottish Premiership survival after Jamie McGrath’s 90th-minute penalty against Hibernian earned their first win in 12 games.

Jim Goodwin’s side had slipped five adrift at the bottom after Ross County won on Saturday, but returned the gap to two with the manager’s debut victory in his fifth game in charge.

Steven Fletcher was the United hero, crashing in an early header and winning the spot-kick after Mykola Kuharevich had levelled for Hibs.

United are unbeaten in their last four meetings with the Edinburgh side, who slumped to a fourth successive defeat to remain sixth, further denting recent hopes of finishing third.

Hibs now face a fight to stay in the top half of the table, with Livingston just one point behind and two games to go before the split.

Without a win since 2 January, manager Jim Goodwin had stressed the importance of a fast start and United duly delivered as Fletcher rose to emphatically power home a cross from Aziz Behich.

Hibs really should have been in front by then though, with Kevin Nisbet guilty of missing a sitter, stabbing the ball against the legs of goalkeeper Mark Birighitti from all of three yards out.

Despite going in front, United were jittery on the ball, constantly giving it away. However, Hibs could do little with all of their possession and failed to trouble Birighitti again before the interval.

Harry McKirdy had set up Nisbet’s golden chance but became increasingly clumsy and ineffective on the right, while Elie Youan did not fare much better on the left as the hosts dug in to defend their lead.

Fletcher looked certain to double his tally in the opening phase of the second half only to lash over the top from Behich’s lovely, cushioned lay-off.

The Australian was again the provider as substitute Ilmari Niskanen also thundered a great opening too high.

Loick Ayina made a number of good interventions at the back for United, including an impressive sliding block to prevent Nisbet reaching a drilled delivery from Chris Cadden.

But the visitors levelled out of the blue on 70 minutes when veteran defender Charlie Mulgrew failed to reach a cross from Marijan Cabraja, allowing Kukharevych to bring the ball down on his chest before crashing a shot high into the net.

Hibs went close to stealing it when Nisbet whipped a fantastic free-kick against the crossbar, with Kukharevych unable to steer his follow-up header on target.

Youan should then have done better when he knocked a shot just wide following a clever set-up from Nisbet.

Instead, it was the home fans who were celebrating when Fletcher cut across Will Fish to draw contact, with McGrath sending David Marshall the wrong way with a cool penalty.

Fish had the chance to make amends at the tail end of six minutes of stoppage time but took too long to shoot and could only find the side-netting.

Player of the match – Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher celebrates his early goal at Tannadice
Fletcher came up with big moments at the start and finish of a vital match for his team

Fletcher leads the way for United – analysis

There were a lot of worried faces in the home stands when Fletcher limped off in added time but the the knock did not look too bad.

Keeping the 36-year-old former Scotland striker fit is going to be crucial if United are to pull off an escape act and stay in the top flight.

Yes, he probably should have scored a second goal but his hold-up play is so important for a side who were initially reluctant to get numbers forward after going in front.

A word of praise too for Behich, who did a power of running up and down the left flank and could have had a hat-trick of assists.

Hibs’ main man is also a centre forward and Nisbet cut a frustrated figure for long spells as his team-mates struggled to find any fluency.

Lee Johnson spoke of a high-tempo approach when he took over last summer, but Hibs were painfully ponderous in their build-up, leaving Nisbet to feed off scraps.

Wide players McKirdy and Youan never got going and there is a real dearth of creativity in the middle of the park for Johnson’s side.

What they said

Dundee United manager Jim Goodwin: “It wasn’t pretty to watch, we had to dig in and be resilient. We carried a good counter-attacking threat and started the game on the front foot. To get that early goal was really important.

“It was exactly what we needed, especially after the results yesterday. A lot of anxiety and tension kicking about the place.

“We can’t be satisfied with draws from now until the end of the season, we have to go all out to win.”

Hibs manager Lee Johnson: “We should have come out with a point minimum.

“We had the momentum, but a very naive attempt at a tackle in the box, and we’re 2-1 down. Unfortunately, if you look at both of their goals, that’s what you get when you have very young centre-halves. It’s being green, naive, isn’t it?”

What next?

Hibs host Edinburgh rivals Hearts next Saturday (12:30 BST), while United are away to Motherwell on the same day (15:00).


Dundee Utd

Formation 4-1-4-1

  • 1Birighitti
  • 22Freeman
  • 27Ayina
  • 4Mulgrew
  • 3McMann
  • 14Sibbald
  • 25FotheringhamSubstituted forNiskanenat 61′minutes
  • 23HarkesSubstituted forAnakuat 88′minutes
  • 18McGrath
  • 16Behich
  • 9FletcherSubstituted forEdwardsat 90+3′minutes


  • 6Graham
  • 7Niskanen
  • 10Djoum
  • 12Edwards
  • 20Anaku
  • 28Anim Cudjoe
  • 31Newman
  • 39Thomson
  • 44Macleod


Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Marshall
  • 12Cadden
  • 25Fish
  • 26Egan-RileyBooked at 38mins
  • 3CabrajaSubstituted forStevensonat 75′minutes
  • 14JeggoBooked at 27mins
  • 11Newell
  • 22McKirdySubstituted forHendersonat 75′minutes
  • 32CampbellSubstituted forKukharevychat 58′minutes
  • 23YouanSubstituted forVieira Tavaresat 86′minutes
  • 15Nisbet


  • 2Miller
  • 8Doyle-Hayes
  • 10Vieira Tavares
  • 13Hoppe
  • 16Stevenson
  • 17Devlin
  • 18Henderson
  • 31Johnson
  • 99Kukharevych

David Munro


Live Text

Player of the match

FletcherSteven Fletcher

Dundee United

  1. Squad number9Player nameFletcher

  2. Squad number16Player nameBehich

  3. Squad number12Player nameEdwards

  4. Squad number7Player nameNiskanen

  5. Squad number20Player nameAnaku

  6. Squad number18Player nameMcGrath

  7. Squad number3Player nameMcMann

  8. Squad number14Player nameSibbald

  9. Squad number23Player nameHarkes

  10. Squad number25Player nameFotheringham

  11. Squad number1Player nameBirighitti

  12. Squad number22Player nameFreeman

  13. Squad number27Player nameAyina

  14. Squad number4Player nameMulgrew


  1. Squad number99Player nameKukharevych

  2. Squad number1Player nameMarshall

  3. Squad number3Player nameCabraja

  4. Squad number15Player nameNisbet

  5. Squad number25Player nameFish

  6. Squad number32Player nameCampbell

  7. Squad number14Player nameJeggo

  8. Squad number23Player nameYouan

  9. Squad number26Player nameCJ Egan-Riley

  10. Squad number11Player nameNewell

  11. Squad number12Player nameCadden

  12. Squad number16Player nameStevenson

  13. Squad number22Player nameMcKirdy

  14. Squad number18Player nameHenderson

  15. Squad number10Player nameJair Tavares


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