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Stranraer 0 Dundee United 5: Serving time all part of striker's development

JOHNNY RUSSELL emerged rather understatedly from the Dundee United dressing room into a frosty corridor deep within the labyrinth of Stair Park's main stand.

The Dundee United striker safely navigated the narrow aisles littered with bibs and cones clutching the match ball he thrice sent crashing into the net just moments earlier – the keepsake littered with scrawled messages of appreciation – before slipping away discreetly into the dark Dumfriesshire night.

His exit may have been low key, but the 22-year-old's brief spell at the seaside was anything but.

This William Hill Scottish Cup dismantling of the bottom-placed club in the second division was never going to be the measure of Russell's ability, nevertheless, he was at the forefront of a fluid and efficient United side that purred along without any issues on Saturday.

The in-demand forward unselfishly set-up Jon Daly to score his first and put Peter Houston's men three goals up and out of sight before half-time.

"Johnny's a fantastic talent. He was involved in all the goals by scoring three and setting up two, I think he showed what kind of player he is for us," Daly, United's captain, said of his striking partner, who also played a part in the Irishman's second on 61 minutes.

"He is very unselfish. He was on a hat-trick in the first half and could have scored, but he rolled the ball to me to score instead.

"David Goodwillie was playing well here and scoring goals before he moved [to England]. Scott Allan I felt could have stayed and developed a bit longer, and he's ended up going from club to club in the lower leagues. Johnny should look at that. If it's the right time to go then he'll go, but until then he's happy here."

That time may be approaching sooner than most of a tangerine persuasion would like if his form keeps up. Stevie Aitken's crisis-stricken lot failed to nullify his threat, or stifle the creative presence of Willo Flood in the middle of the park until he was mercifully substituted on 62 minutes.

The former Celtic midfielder was a calming influence on a heavy surface that Stranraer scampered frantically around attempting to get a grip of proceedings without any hint of reward.

"I don't think we made United work as hard as we could have done," said Nicky Phinn, the former Dunfermline midfielder.

"They came down here and their attitude was spot on. We knew if that was going to be the case it would be a hard afternoon for us.

"Unfortunately it turned out to be just that."

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