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Youngsters' punishment grounded in bad choices

A FOUL can be looked at in a variety of different ways.

Jackie McNamara dismisses the suggestion that his young side has lacked discipline
Jackie McNamara dismisses the suggestion that his young side has lacked discipline

This might be done by posting a clip of an incident on the internet, although Dundee United were yesterday more inclined to cool suggestions that their players had become indisciplined after successive red cards. First Keith Watson was sent off in a defeat by St Mirren and then Calum Butcher was dismissed in Perth on Sunday. It was a match which ended in a 3-0 loss.

One further result from that match has been to questions whether a side revered recently for its youthful enthusiasm has since been upset by a callow impertinence. Two players have seen red in consecutive matches as the Tannadice side has watched as an auspicious run of form has come to an end, albeit the club remains just five points shy of second place in the SPFL Premiership.

Jackie McNamara, the United manager, yesterday spoke confidently in answer to questions about his team's discipline. He considers his side's record to be informed more by his young players' decision making than an inability to behave themselves and will expect a more assured display when United host Aberdeen tomorrow. The Tannadice team will move ahead of their visitors in the table should they win.

"Keeping 11 men on the park is important and it's all down to concentration. It's a decision-making problem rather than discipline," said the United manager. "Against St Johnstone, it was a simple ball over the top and we found ourselves a goal and a man down. It makes it hard for you and when you look at the three games we've lost - including away to Inverness in the cup - we've been down to 10 men in all of them. Keeping those concentration levels are important and I've stressed that to the players."

McNamara kept his brightest young talent in the shade of the stand initially on Sunday and he still has some concerns over the fitness of Ryan Gauld. It is uncertain whether the teenager's possible absence at Tannadice will allow David Goodwillie a belated flourish as his loan deal from Blackburn Rovers expires next month.

The forward has struggled to make an impact after returning to Tayside and is expected to return to Ewood Park when his loan expires. "David's loan is up on January 13 so he's available until then," McNamara added. "We think he'll be going back to Blackburn because it's going to be hard for us to keep him."

That statement is not likely to put supporters in much of a lather, with Ryan Jack also quick to stress that he does not believe that United's bubble has burst. The Aberdeen midfielder - who has been in consistently good form this term - has been watching from afar as United faltered to two consecutive defeats but has not been fooled into thinking that tomorrow's opponents have also lost their touch.

His view is framed by his knowledge of the talent contained within such as Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven, whom Jack played alongside as part of the Scotland under-21 team. "I've no doubt they will go on to great things," said the Aberdeen midfielder. "There's a lot of weight being put on their shoulders at the moment, especially Ryan Gauld, but he's producing the goods week in, week out so it doesn't seem to be affecting him.

"He's just turned 18, so he still has a lot of learning to do. I am sure United will look after him properly. They are still one of the main rivals for that second place now. They won a few games in a row and seemed to be scoring goals for fun.

"They are getting a lot of the hype at the moment but it doesn't really bother us. Sometimes it's nice to quietly go about your business. The main thing is that we are up where we want to be at the end of the season."

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