Dundee United 3 Pars 0, SPFL Trust Trophy, third round

ATHLETIC midfielder Joe Chalmers bemoaned a "20-minute spell where we just lost our way" after they were knocked out of the SPFL Trust Trophy.

Three first half goals by Dundee United took the third round tie away from an under-strength Pars team that were missing NINE of their regular first-team squad members.

They headed for Tannadice without skipper Kyle Benedictus, Craig Wighton, Kane Ritchie-Hosler, Rhys Breen, Matty Todd and Deniz Mehmet through injury; on-loan goalkeeper Harry Sharp, who was cup-tied having played for parent club Dundee's 'B' team earlier in the competition; Sam Fisher, who was suspended due to bookings accrued during last season's tournament; and Ben Summers, who was with the Scotland under-21 squad.

Chalmers, at 29, was the second most experienced player in the side picked by James McPake, behind Michael O'Halloran (32), that included three teeangers.

Two of those, Andrew Tod and Taylor Sutherland, are just 17, whilst their bench featured debutant Ewan McLeod, who is also 17; Liam Hoggan, who will be 17 on Monday; and fellow academy prospect, Jake Sutherland.

"Overall, with the scoreline, it's a disappointing afternoon for us," Chalmers observed. "It doesn't matter what game, or what team you've got out. It's never good to get beat.

"There was a 20-minute spell where we just lost our way and conceded three goals that we feel we could've avoided, and then the game's away from you.

"We had to stick to our task and that's one thing about this team; we'll keep working hard and we'll keep chipping away. We hung in there and in the second half we had some good moments, but obviously just couldn't get ourselves back in the game."

The fact that Dunfermline continued to try and find a route back into the game, despite trailing by three goals, was a credit to their attitude, effort and application, which McPake noted post-match.

It was also appreciated by the 423 travelling supporters at time-up, who afforded their team a warm reception despite the end result, in the knowledge their young team came up against a strong United line-up.

The Pars are, so far, the only team to have taken points from Jim Goodwin's men in the Championship this season, and the Tangerines fielded a strong starting eleven for this game.

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Forwards Louis Moult and Tony Watt, wide man Glenn Middleton, and former Scotland centre back Declan Gallagher, were amongst those picked against an Athletic team with an average age of just 22.

The visitors made six changes to the team that drew at Inverness Caledonian Thistle in their league game prior, with captain for the day Chris Hamilton, Aaron Comrie, Ewan Otoo, Chalmers and O'Halloran the five retained.

Dunfermline Press: Michael O'Halloran goes for goal.Michael O'Halloran goes for goal. (Image: Craig Brown.)

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, Sutherland and Tod were also handed starts.

Whilst the Pars showed some neat passages of passing play, they struggled to get high enough up the pitch to pose an attacking threat for much of the opening half, with any opportunities in the game being created by the hosts.

United took the lead in the 18th minute when Kai Fotheringham sent over a cross that Moult emphatically headed home from six yards out.

Dunfermline registered their first effort on goal midway through the half, a shot from O'Halloran that was blocked, before Sutherland had a go from range that was deflected wide.

However, United remained a threat and, after he had arrowed a shot wide, Fotheringham played a key role in their second goal.

Released by Watt on the right, he sent over a low ball intended for Moult but Comrie, in trying to clear, instead put the ball through his own net.

It was unfortunate for the Pars full back, and three minutes later, Dunfermline were three goals down.

It was a fine individual effort from Declan Glass who, after picking the ball up at the edge of the box, advanced and glided beyond both Hamilton and Comrie, before firing a clinical finish high and beyond Little.

It was a very long way back for the Pars but, before the break, Fenton was desperately unlucky to hit the upright with a header from Comrie's cross, as was Tod to find the target as he latched onto the rebound, while Moffat had an effort blocked.

Dunfermline Press: Miller Fenton can only watch as his header strikes the post.Miller Fenton can only watch as his header strikes the post. (Image: Craig Brown.)

Dunfermline continued to probe in the second half and refused to crumble, with Comrie and Moffat both shooting off-target, as did substitute, Lewis McCann, and Otoo.

They couldn't find a consolation goal that their efforts deserved, and McPake said: "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 was always going to be a tough afternoon."

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).