Football: Welsh heeds wise words

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Dundee United. .1

Welsh 88

Aberdeen. . . . 1

Shearer 7

Attendance: 21,397

IVAN GOLAC had warned his players that more than the Scottish Cup was at stake. They were, the Dundee United manager insisted, playing for their futures and failure in the semi- final would result in wholesale changes. For most of a nondescript first-half - enlivened only by an appalling goalkeeping error which allowed Aberdeen to take an early lead - Golac's players performed as though they wished to test their manager's word.

United did little to put Aberdeen under pressure and, by half-time, it appeared as though the final was beyond them. However, their football in the second-half was much improved and they looked as though they really were playing for their jobs. A goal a minute from time earned them a replay back at the national stadium on Tuesday night. 'It would have been an injustice had we been denied another chance,' Golac said. 'We were the better side and dominated the second half.'

The United manager felt his keeper, Guido Van de Kamp, had little do in the match, which was perhaps just as well since it was his mistake which gave Aberdeen their advantage. Only seven minutes had elapsed when Lee Richardson found Stewart McKimmie on the right and the full-back's first-time cross landed neatly for Duncan Ferguson. The striker controlled the delivery on his chest and hit the ball before it touched the ground. Van de Kamp tracked the shot well and dropped on the ball but somehow it squirmed from under his body and rolled gently into the net. 'Well, all right, he had nothing much to do after that disastrous moment,' Golac corrected himself.

It had been thought that Theo Snelders would have been in the opposite goal, but he was still feeling stiff from a shoulder injury and that veteran of 13 senior clubs, John Burridge, wore the gloves. He did well until the closing minutes when United started pushing their tall central defenders forward and one of them, Brian Welsh, headed the equaliser in 89 minutes. Welsh rose above McKimmie just inside Aberdeen's box and and connected powerfully with Dave Bowman's cross. The ball beat Burridge, whose 42-year- old frame might have been slow in getting down. 'Football is hard to bear sometimes,' said Aberdeen's manager Willie Miller afterwards, 'but all we can do is come back on Tuesday and try again.'

By then Burridge might have to step aside for Snelders and Scottish internationalists Stephen Wright and Scott Booth will be looking for their places back. The captain, Alex McLeish, will be free from suspension, but if he is to be accommodated Miller will have to think carefully before dropping young Gary Smith from the heart of the defence. He was the best player on the greasy Hampden pitch yesterday and is one of the most exciting talents in the country. United's Christian Dailly is another and it was only when he took over from Jerren Nixon after 62 minutes that the Tannadice side suggested they could revive their dream of Scottish Cup glory. United have played in six cup finals and have yet to win one.

Tommy Burns, the Kilmarnock player-manager, said he did not fear Rangers in the other semi-final being played today, but was more concerned about the effect Hampden may have on his players. 'There is something about the national stadium which can hit players in different ways,' he said. 'We have already beaten Rangers once this season, but much will depend on how we cope with the atmosphere.' The stadium is a second home for Rangers, but there are doubts about Trevor Steven, Ian Ferguson, and Gary Stevens.

(Photograph omitted)