Dundee United 3-0 PARS, SPFL Trust Trophy, third round

JAMES MCPAKE praised his players for keeping going after his under-strength side were knocked out of the SPFL Trust Trophy by Dundee United.

Dunfermline headed for Tayside without NINE regular first team squad members, through a combination of injury and unavailability due to other factors, and the young side they fielded conceded three first half goals to Jim Goodwin's team.

Louis Moult's 18th minute header opened the scoring before two goals in three minutes - the first an own goal from Aaron Comrie, in trying to clear a Kai Fotheringham centre, and a fine individual effort from Declan Glass - saw the Tangeries safely into round four.

Athletic, however, showed great commitment and application, and were unfortunate not to at least net a consolation goal.

Miller Fenton struck the post with a header in first half stoppage time, whilst they had a few opportunities after half-time as they refused to give up.

That, and the experience gained by several of their up-and-coming players, pleased McPake, who said post-match: "Obviously, it's disappointing to lose the game. It looked like, at half-time, the game was away from us.

"Sloppy goals - I would need to see them back - but, in terms of the performance, the positives to take out are the younger kids. Taylor Sutherland starting against an experienced player like Declan Gallagher, Andrew Tod getting another 90 minutes, Ewan McLeod coming on to make his debut.

"That is the positives, and the fact that I don't think the players looked like they chucked it at any point in the game. Now, that might have been the way the game was going anyway. Sometimes the pressure's off when you're 3-0 down, but sometimes you can let the game go and it becomes a real sore one for you.

"We wanted to win the game but, with the people we had out, with injury and not being able to play in this competition, it always going to be a tough afternoon."

Kyle Benedictus, who it was confirmed midweek suffered a fracture in his foot last week, Craig Wighton, who is to be referred to a specialist for a knee problem, and Kane Ritchie-Hosler, who twisted a knee in training midweek, where three of the headline-grabbing players unable to feature.

Rhys Breen joined long-term absentees Matty Todd and Deniz Mehmet - although the latter took to the pitch to participate in the goalkeepers' warm-up - on the sidelines, alongside Harry Sharp - cup-tied after playing for parent club Dundee's 'B' team in an earlier round - Sam Fisher, suspended due to bookings accrued in last season's competition, and Ben Summers, who is with the Scotland under-21 squad.

There were six changes, therefore, to the side that drew at Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with captain for the day, with Chris Hamilton, Comrie, Ewan Otoo, Joe Chalmers and Michael O'Halloran the five retained.

Back-up keeper, Max Little, came in for Sharp, and there was a first start for Blackpool loanee, Owen Moffat, whilst Paul Allan, Miller Fenton, Taylor Sutherland and Andrew Tod were also handed starts.

Home boss Goodwin named a strong line-up, which included the likes of ex-Pars loan player, Ross Graham, forwards Moult and Tony Watt, and wide man, Glenn Middleton, as they aimed to build on a strong start to the season.

United sit top of the Championship, above Raith Rovers on goal difference, with 10 points from four games, with Dunfermline the only side to have taken points from them so far in league football.

That came last month, in a 1-1 draw at Tannadice, but this was to be perhaps an even harder test for a depleted Pars side.

And so it proved.

United were the dominant side in the opening 45 minutes, with Jordan Tillson and Moult having early sights of goal, whilst Fotheringham lashed an effort over.

McPake's young team did display some neat passing moves but Sutherland, up front on his own, had a hard test against Graham and ex-Scotland international, Declan Gallagher, at the back for United.

Goodwin's men made their dominance count in the 18th minute when Fotheringham beat Otoo on the right and sent over a cross for Moult, who headed it powerfully beyond the helpless Little and into the net.

It took the visitors midway through the half to register their first effort on goal, which O'Halloran saw blocked after good work by Tod to intercept and then release Sutherland, who did well to hold it and find the former St Johnstone man.

Sutherland had a trickler of a shot deflected wide but, after Fotheringham arrowed one wide for the Tangerines, they added a second in the 34th minute - and it was unfortunate for Comrie.

Fotheringham again provided the assist, with the Pars full back, in trying to cut out his dangerous low ball across the six-yard box, unable to divert it anywhere but into his own net.

If that saw the mountain that needed climbing become a bit higher, it became almost insurmountable three minutes later when United added a third.

Watt did really well in the build-up, winning the ball in the centre of the park, before spreading play for Glass on the right.

He then made his way into the box and, after displaying fine skill to move away from his opponent, sent an emphatic finish high beyond Little.

The concession of a third goal, for as much as United had dominant, seemed harsh nevertheless on Athletic, who, to their credit, tried to respond before the break.

In time added on, Fenton climbed well to meet a Comrie cross at the far post, but was unlucky to see his header hit the post, whilst Tod couldn't quite turn the rebound home, before Moffat had a shot blocked before the half-time whistle.

Tillson sent a Watt centre over, whilst under pressure from Otoo, at the beginning of the second half, which also saw McPake change things up by sending Josh Edwards and Lewis McCann on for Fenton and Sutherland.

Dunfermline still tried to find a goal, and good play on the right between Chalmers and Comrie sent O'Halloran away.

His low ball was cleared only as far as Comrie, who shot over, before Moffat strode forward and fired wide moments later.

However, the on-loan Blackpool man went down immediately after hitting his effort, and was taken off for academy youngster, Lewis McLeod, who was making his debut.

McCann did well to fashion a chance for himself on the Pars left, but sent his effort wide of the far post, as Dunfermline continued to try and find, at the very least, a consolation goal.

Otoo tried his luck with an ambitious effort from range, which ended up amongst the Pars fans at the Shed End of Tannadice, but you couldn't fault their application and effort throughout, particularly second half, when faced with a three-goal deficit.

Whilst United appeared content that they'd done the job before the interval, McPake's team continued to try and fashion something, and they almost did when McCann was unfortunate not to make more of a fine Edwards delivery whilst under pressure from a home defender.

McLeod tried his luck, with the game petering out, from the edge of the box, shooting over the bar, but United did the damage in the first half to advance to round four.

Dundee United: Walton, Graham, Grimshaw, Moult (Stirton 65), Middleton (Cudjoe 65), Tillson, Fotheringham, Glass, Gallagher, Watt (Constable 74), McMann (Duffy 74).

Subs not used: Holt, Denham, Freeman, Mwangi, Adams.

Goals: Moult (18), Comrie (OG, 34), Glass (37).

Booked: Tillson (88).

Pars: Little, Comrie, Hamilton, Otoo, Chalmers, Moffat (McLeod 62), Allan, Fenton (Edwards 53), O'Halloran, T. Sutherland (McCann 53), Tod.

Subs not used: Hoggan, McLeod, J. Sutherland, Collier.

Referee: Craig Napier.

Attendance: 2,408. (423 away fans).

Meanwhile, Kelty Hearts advanced to round four with a 3-1 win at Dumbarton.

Reece Lyon opened the scoring in 11 minutes, which Botti Biabi added to five minutes later, before Michael Ruth netted for the Sons before half-time.

Biabi, however, scored his second, and Kelty's third 14 minutes from time to send them through, despite Jamie Walker being sent off for two bookable offences.