After a barnstorming conclusion to last season where United won 16 games on the bounce to gain the runners-up spot in the league and lifted two cups, the expectation surrounding them in this opening game of the 18/19 season was inevitably high.
Against Nairn, who finished in the middle of the table, they started strong favourites.
With less than two minutes played Urquhart, in pursuit of a long ball from the back, managed to get past defenders to a position right of centre and offloaded a stinging drive on target that was hard enough for Main to elect to palm the ball away two-handed for an unrewarded corner.
However that was simply the precursor to a stinging riposte from United, who set about mounting wave upon wave of attack on the visiting rearguard.
Macphee was leading the line and generally directing forward play while newcomer Gary Fraser, playing like an old fashioned deep-lying centre forward, showed what an asset his obviously astute football brain is to the team.
In the seventh minute a curler from Stott, who seems to have more of these than a hair salon, had Maclean scrambling to push the ball away from his back post.
Two minutes later Greig wreaked some havoc on the left: after skinning Dingwall he managed to cut in just in front of Maclean to give himself the space from which to deliver a superbly judged cross to find the head of FRASER, whose consummately timed run put him in the perfect position to head the ball hard and accurately beyond the reach of Mac-lean’s outstretched right arm.
Nairn were struggling and they held out until the 20th minute when after a period of intense pressure in and around their penalty area, Macphee found the combination to unpick the visiting defence. Fully occupying all three of Ramsay, Maclean and Glenn Main, he created space to his left into which snuck ANDERSON.
Despite the best endeavours of the three defenders the slippery Islander knocked the ball the few yards to his captain, who from about 12 yards. skelped the ball accurately past the reach of the keeper for number two.
Errors were remarkably infrequent but a lack of communication between midfield and defence let Urquhart collect a ball more or less unchallenged out on the right about ten yards into United territory and progress it to a position right of the box before MacKENZIE drove it home past Main.
Coming only two minutes after United’s second goal, this could have been enough to alter the balance of the game but United were resilient and having none of that.
They simply resumed their offensive and again locked Nairn back in their own backyard.
It took only five minutes of this for them to restore their two-goal margin.
Nairn had serious difficulty in trying to contain Graeme Rodger in midfield and had began to dish out some meaty challenges but he simply shrugged off whatever they put his way and, bursting forward through the middle, he saw off both Main and Porrit’s attempts to thwart his progress and made his way to the box before releasing the ball forward right for GREIG to finish.
The keeper advanced to close him down but the wide man despatched the ball back along the line of the keeper and into the net behind him for 3-1.
United continued to boss things until the interval and could or should have gone in a couple more goals to the good. More or less everyone bar the referee and standside linesman could see that the result of a 34th minute stramash in the Nairn goalmouth was that keeper Mac-lean grabbed the ball from a fair few feet over the goal line before getting up on his hind legs and disposing of it up the park.
An aggrieved United simply got on with it.
A couple of corners where both centre backs McKeown and Wood joined the forward fray caused mayhem before the ball was cleared and Macphee close to the interval saw a tight angled shot from close to the left upright missing narrowly.
In the second United continued to press but Nairn, having effectively abandoned hopes of victory, settled for a more damage limitation approach by attempting to crowd the midfield.
It may have reduced the goal chances a little but what really what stood between the Wee County and a big clobbering was the performance of keeper Mac-lean, who pulled off a string of top drawer saves to keep the score at a reasonably respectable level.
One came after what would have been an outstanding goal when Stott made a blistering solo run down the right and crossed to Macphee, whose thumping shot was some how blocked by the keeper. Another incident saw a fierce drive from Fraser tipped over at full stretch for a corner.
United were worth more than a two-goal win and the scoreline was completed in the 70th minute.
There is some dispute about where the goal credit lies but the events are clear enough.
From 20 odd yards out left of centre, Fraser leathered in a drive that the otherwise very reliable Maclean made a bit of Horlicks of and let the ball spin from his hands to rebound from the underside of the bar. Before it could reach terra firma, both Anderson and Wood were onto it and the ball landed well over the goal line.
Wood claims to have had the last touch with a header and the ref says it was Ando but he isn’t making any claim to it himself.
Others think it was a fierce shot by Fraser – the keeper couldn’t hold it and it went into the net via the underside of the bar.
FACKENS is therefore credited with his first for United.
United continued to dominate until the end.
This was a highly encouraging performance from United.
They look to have bought wisely in Stott and Fraser and to have strengthened since last season.
There is clear championship potential but converting that into the league flag is still a huge step to take.