David Goodwillie finally served up a tasty treat after weeks of drab fare as his triple whammy sent Dundee United into the quarter-finals of the Scottish League Cup.
Having returned to the City of Discovery on a season-long loan deal from Blackburn Rovers, the club he joined in a £2m switch back in 2011, Goodwillie was expected to indulge in a goal feast. It has been more of a famine, of course, and a solitary goal during the new campaign had done little to get the mouth watering. His yellow boots have been about as prolific as Billy Connolly's banana boots but the foot, and the head, came good last night.
A morale-boosting hat trick eased Jackie McNamara's men into the last eight and, with cup favourites Celtic coming a cropper against Morton on Tuesday night, the road to Hampden continues to open up. If you are looking for tenuous omens then here's one. The last time Dundee United lifted a piece of silverware, the Scottish Cup in 2010, Goodwillie scored in a win over Thistle en route to the final.
"Hopefully this can be a turning point for him," said McNamara, after watching his troops overcome his old side. "I'm delighted for him and he took his goals very well. There's a lot of pressure on somebody like that coming up here and perhaps this might just take some of the weight off his shoulders. The pleasing thing for me is the threat we have and we are now getting the ball in the net. As you have seen from the results, this competition has opened up and I think everybody that is in the quarter-final draw will be confident of winning it. I'm just happy to be in that draw."
It was a colourful night at Tannadice. With the clash of kits prompting a move away from the traditional rig outs, the hosts trotted on to the park in red and white while the visitors sported battleship grey. The Thistle supporters among the fairly paltry 3778 crowd added their own splashes by turning the air blue with a series of chants directed at former captain, Paul Paton. Apparently he is involved in the banking industry or something like that . . .
It was the away fans who had the most to shout about in the early stages as Thistle started with plenty of purpose and patiently probed for an opening. Ross Forbes, particularly, kept the United rearguard on their toes with a couple of inviting balls into menacing areas. When he was not trying to set up one of his team-mates, Forbes had a go himself and a raking effort from 25 yards had Radoslaw Cierzniak, the Dundee United goalkeeper, scrambling across as it whistled narrowly by.
Apart from a jaw-shuddering challenge by Mark Kerr on the besieged Paton, the home side were struggling to make their presence felt but they slowly muscled their way into affairs. On the half hour, Stuart Armstrong dinked a pass into Nadir Ciftci, whose shot was blocked by Scott Fox. It would be a temporary reprieve, however, and United hit their guests with a damaging double dunt before the interval. Ciftci made progress in the area and, when Conrad Balatoni lost his footing as the cut back came in, Goodwillie took advantage to prod in the opener.
Galvanised by that breakthrough, United continued to thrust forward. The busy Ciftci battered in a low strike which Fox turned round a post but, from Mark Wilson's resulting corner, Goodwillie doubled the tally with a header. "I thought we were a bit fortunate to be two up then, as Thistle had caused us problems," conceded McNamara.
That sucker punch must have really knocked the stuffing out of Thistle and, while they reemerged with plenty of attacking endeavour, chances were few and far between. Kallum Higginbotham had a sclaffy swipe which Cierzniak smothered comfortably while James Craigan should have done better with a decent opportunity from eight yards but he could not wrap his foot round the ball and only mustered a timorous stab.
United appeared increasingly comfortable and they added two more in the last knockings. Goodwillie went on a powerful, surging run and when his angled shot cracked the post, substitute Ryan Dow rolled in the rebound. Thistle managed a consolation when Christie Elliot thumped home but Goodwillie had the final say and stroked in a fourth to confirm his comeback. "Goodie is clinical," observed Alan Archibald, the Partick Thistle manager, in a simple summing up of the contest.
He certainly was last night.