Football: Ferraz is fine and dandy

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The Independent Online
Dundee United 2

Skoldmark 14, Ferraz 85

Dundee 1

Falconer 52

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 11,693

A GOAL five minutes from time from Dundee United's one close-season signing of note, the lanky Portuguese striker Joaquim Ferraz, lifted the premature gloom from at least one half of Tayside at Tannadice Park yesterday.

Not even out of July and the Glasgow and Edinburgh-based media had no difficulty in identifying this as an early skirmish in the battle to avoid last place in the Premier League. In their different ways, though, both of Dundee's unregarded teams showed some potential for defying the metropolitan cynics. Despite conceding an early goal, Dundee dominated the first hour with some neat and constructive football that should have brought them greater reward than just an equaliser.

After just two home wins last season - and two home defeats by Dundee - this was to be United's day. As befits the home of the Dandy and the Beano, there is a comic-strip quality to the rivalry in a town where one team walks 150 yards down the street to play the other, and Ferraz would form the basis of a good cartoon character.

Tall and awkward in the extreme, he has the look of a player who will either fall over his own feet or trip up the opposition. In the event, it was the latter. After entering the fray in the 67th minute, Ferraz had a shot blocked, saw a header hit the post and then directed another one downwards that Robert Douglas, who had already made a number of notable saves, scrambled unsuccessfully to try to stop crossing his line.

Ferraz's manager, Paul Sturrock, was a man vindicated. Roundly criticised for failing to add significantly to a squad that finished one off the bottom last season, he was provided with instant evidence that his first investment could be a profitable one.

"I was disappointed with a lot of the media coverage about him being a Second Division player in Portugal [with Belenenses] and a Bosman signing," said Sturrock. "The player showed today that he has qualities that will strengthen our side. I know we've got to add to the side. I'll get players when they become available. We're not the finished article by a long chalk."

United showed the truth of that observation for the first hour. They took the lead after 14 minutes when Magnus Skoldmark fired in off the underside of the bar from Jim Paterson's corner, but were then outplayed for a long period.

Dundee, whose late-season surge took them to the heady heights of fifth this spring, showed some of that quality in their approach work, but it was not until the seventh minute of the second half that they equalised. Gavin Rae, previously eager to shoot on sight, this time picked out Willie Miller, who had missed an inviting chance in the first half and whose ball into the area was met sweetly on the turn by Willie Falconer.

"But after the goal we stopped playing," said the Dundee manager, Jockey Scott, and that left the stage clear for Ferraz's late flourish.