Hot Goal Time Machine: Dundee United

May 7, 2014

For a description of exactly what this series is about and how the idea was formed then be sure to read the open letter at the top of our opening blog. For the rest we’ll summarise: we’ve asked a blogger from every team in the Scottish top flight to recall their favourite goal from every season since 1998. And in this edition it’s the turn of our long time, and greatly appreciated, Dundee United blogger Stuart Milne to trawl through the archives in search of his treasured 15 strikes.

When The Terrace Podcast asked me to come up with my most memorable Dundee United goal from every season dating back to season 1998/99, two thoughts came into my head.

  1. There were bound to be a few seasons – especially further back in time – that would be difficult to come up with an answer for, even though I’ve been a regular at Tannadice since 1990/91.

  2. Setting a start point of 1998/99 meant I was one season short of being able to discuss one of my favourite and most memorable United goals of all time.

As it turned out, by going over every result and scorer for each match in each season, I was able to come up with at least one truly memorable goal with relative ease… except, bizarrely, for season 2008/09.

And such is the quality of the goal I’m thinking of from season 1997/98, I’m going to bend the rules and talk about it anyway. So there!

So here’s my season-by-season list of the best goals Dundee United have scored.

1997/98 – Lars Zetterlund; Dundee United 5-0 Aberdeen; November 9th, 1997

Unusually, I watched this game on TV. I think I must have been ill or something.

But anyway, as you can tell by the scoreline, this was one of those memorable games for both sets of supports. It’s the one where Roy Aitken got sacked afterwards, the one where Dean Windass got numerous red cards for kicking out at everyone and everything (including the corner flag) and it’s the one that included what I still call The Lars Zetterlund Supershot.

From a good bit outside the box, Zetterlund hit the sweetest half volley I’ve ever seen a United player hit, and the ball rocketed into the bottom corner, staying a perfect three or four inches off the ground the whole time and not deviating from its straight line trajectory in the slightest. A proper daisy-cutter of a strike.

As a TV viewer though, what I remember most was the look on his face after he scored. Hardly the most prolific goalscorer of all time, I don’t think Zetterlund himself could believe the quality of the strike, and the wide eyed expression on his kisser when he ran to his teammates was a memorable sight.

And just look at his face!” declared the commentator.


1998/99 – Alex Mathie; Hearts 0-1 Dundee United; October 24th, 1998

In October 1998, newly appointed Dundee United manager Paul Sturrock signed Ipswich striker Alex Mathie for £700,000 and put him on a contract worth – if rumours are to be believed – around £8,000 per week.

I remember this goal because in only his second game for the club, he scored a nice goal which would see us defeat Hearts at Tynecastle – a rarity at the time.

Was the goal particularly special? No, but it was still a time – an innocent time I suppose – when Mathie was considered a potentially good signing for the club.

That didn’t last long. What a diddy!


1999/00 – David Hannah; Dundee United 3-1 Hibernian; September 11th, 1999

The score was 1-1, with Hibs looking by far the more dangerous of the sides. Could United hold on for a point or even grab a winner?

That question was answered on the 71st minute by David Hannah who – far too far away from goal to reasonably expect to challenge the goalkeeper – smacked a bending, dipping ball into the top corner. Ollie Gottskalksson didn’t even bother moving.

It was a stunning strike from the midfielder and one that Hibs manager Alex McLeish would describe as “A goal in a million” in his post match interview.

Unfortunately, Hannah didn’t take heed of that, and in the weeks and months that followed, he kept trying to replicate it with zero success.


2000/01 – Derek Lilley; St. Johnstone 2-3 Dundee United; May 12th, 2001

Did you know that if you don’t commit something to your long term memory within around five seconds of it happening, it’ll be lost to your forever? A bit like when you forget if you locked your car door when you’re about ten paces away from it. Well something like that happened with this goal.

Ironically, the most memorable goal of the 2000/01 season is one I can’t actually remember.

With a very real threat of relegation hanging over our heads, the penultimate game of the 2000/01 season was potentially make or break. If we didn’t pick up three points at St. Johnstone we’d have to go to Pittodrie and win and also hope that St. Mirren didn’t pick up any victories either in their last two matches.

Mid way through the second half, we were 2-0 down and had missed a penalty. But then came the comeback of all comebacks, culminating in Derek Lilley’s 88th minute winner and a pitch invasion by the fans.

What a moment! But the funny thing was that because I got so caught up in the pandemonium of the goal celebrations, the visual of who scored and how was actually lost to me. On the way home that night I found myself utterly baffled that I couldn’t remember anything about it.

Still… what a moment!


2001/02 – Jim Hamilton; Dundee United 3-1 Hibernian; October 13th, 2001

Jim Hamilton was one of these guys who was never the sort of striker you’d have as your first choice, but you could rely on him on occasion to pop up with a quality finish. For example, I think it goes without saying that his volley for Motherwell against Celtic will be in the list of the Steelmen’s best goals [ED – It is!].

While not as good as that, Jim Hamilton did pop up with Dundee United’s most memorable goal of the 2001/02 season against Hibs. And sure, it might have been a goal gifted to him by a slack Frank Sauzee backpass, but when he was given the opportunity, he effortlessly chipped Nick Colgan from outside the box.

A thing of beauty.


2002/03 – Danny Ogunmade; Dundee United 3-0 Dunfermline Athletic; Match 1st, 2003

These days, the name Danny Ogunmade only comes up when someone asks the question “Whatever Happened To Danny Ogunmade”, but I’ll always associate him with the goal he scored against Dunfermline back in the dreary 2002/03 season.

Now it’s not that this goal was particularly technical, nor was it a screamer from distance; in fact, it was probably just a tap-in. But what makes it memorable was the burst of pace from the youngster to get in a position to score.

Ogunmade was like lightning getting to that ball ahead of the Pars defence; without question the most impressive example of pace I’ve witnessed at Tannadice in all the years I’ve been going. Fans thought there was a potential new star in the team. Shows what we know, eh?

2003/04 – Jason Scotland; Dundee United 3-3 Rangers; April 24th, 2004

Back in the days where Rangers were actually a forced to be reckoned with, even getting a point off them was considered a decent result.

I remember this game less for the quality of the goals, and more for the overall quality of the match. It was exciting, it was end to end and it was – as the old cliché goes – a great advert for Scottish football.

The difference maker in the game was Jason Scotland, who came off the bench to score in the 59th minute and then again in the 90th. You’ve got to love a 90th minute goal against one of the Old Firm. Pandemonium!

2004/05 – Grant Brebner; Dundee United 2-1 Hearts; April 16th, 2005

And speaking of late goals and pandemonium, what about Grant Brebmer’s 90th minute winner against Hearts? It was the culmination of probably the best eight-day week Dundee United fans had experienced for many a year (which shows how bad this period was for the club).

Having defeated Hibs to get to the Scottish Cup Final the previous Saturday and come away from Ibrox on the Tuesday with an unlikely 0-1 victory, United were given another boost in the quest to stave off relegation for another year,

With time running out, Brebner bust a gut to take the ball outside the box, and while he initially mis-controlled it, he still managed to launch it right into the top corner, leaving Craig Gordon with no chance.

That goal played a major part in saving us from the drop, but sadly also convinced Eddie Thompson and a large section of the Dundee Utd support (although not me) to give the useless Gordon Chisholm a job. That wasn’t ever going to end well…


2005/06 – Derek McInnes; Dundee United 2-1 Falkirk; January 15th, 2006

Fast forward eight months and Gordon Chisholm had been rightly sacked for spending far too much money on overrated dross and bombing us out of three cup competitions, including the 2-2 Away Goals defeat to Mypa 47 (the lowest I’ve ever felt as a United fan by the way).

As a stopgap between Chisholm departing and Craig Brewster taking the reigns for his disastrous spell as Tannadice boss, we had the Billy Dodds Era for all of one game. And funnily enough, the goal from that game – a Derek McInnes 89th minute screamer – was cut from exactly the same cloth as the Brebner goal. An excellent strike from a terrible player and captain.

2006/07 –  Jon Daly; Dundee United 1-1 Celtic; March 31st, 2007

Ok, there’s a bit of a trend forming here. This is another 90th minute stunner in another rubbish season for the club.

I think over this period we were so bad and so often in relegation trouble that the most memorable goals are the ones that brought a great emotional release, and they tend to be late winners/levellers.

In this case, Jon Daly got on the end of a long punt up the park by the goalkeeper to hit a half volley into the net and score his first goal for the club.

2007/08 – Mark de Vries; Dundee United 2-2 Rangers; March 16th, 2008

Although we would end up losing the CIS Cup Final on penalties – and to a man, Arabs blame Mark Kerr for that to this day – it was still a great occasion that bore witness to the best goal we would score that season.

In extra time, Willo Flood won the ball from Barry Ferguson outside our own box, he played it to Craig Conway who drove up the wing and squared it to Prince Buaben, who then subsequently passed it to Mark de Vries on the edge of the Rangers box.

With the ball at his feet, Mark de Vries turned Kirk Broadfoot inside out so easily that his head his still spinning to this day, and then buried it into the far corner with a measured strike.


I’m fairly sure someone at the time knocked up a video to show how the goal accurately reflected one of the great Brazilian goals from a World Cup Final.


2008/09 – Scott Robertson; Rangers 3-3 Dundee United; November 4th, 2009

Season 2008/09 didn’t have any goals that were especially memorable or consequential, and I really struggled to come up with something for this. But for an unusual reason I’ll include Scott Robertson’s close range tap-in from a 3-3 draw at Ibrox on a cold Tuesday night in November.

What is that reason? Well I was listening to this on the radio, so it’s not like I even saw it live.

What was memorable about it was the radio commentary?

People talk about how David Begg was this amazing commentator who would split it down the line, but I always thought he was deeply biased towards Rangers in the same way as Liam McLeod is to Aberdeen.

When I started listening to the game after work, we were already 1-2 up, so the first goal I heard being scored was Sasa Papac’s equaliser. And as you would expect, unbiased Beggy was screaming from the rooftops as he declared“OOOOOOOOOH, SASA PAPAC!!!!! A BEAUTIFUL GOAL FOR THE MIGHTY RANGERS”. Pretty standard.

But when Scott Robertson put United ahead again in the 59th minute, you wouldn’t even have known it had happened if it wasn’t for the cheer from the small band of Arabs in attendance. Without adding any emotion (other than being gutted of course), Begg whispered in a monotone voice “And Scott Robertson has scored”.

Obviously when Kevin Thomson hit a 90th minute equaliser, good old David was as happy as a sand boy again and somehow managed to find his voice. But of course, the official line is that he’s a Hibs fan.


2009/10 – David Robertson; Dundee United 1-0 Rangers; March 24th, 2010

Now here’s a season with plenty to choose from.

Candidates include Darren Dods header to finally defeat Celtic after more than a decade of trying, Danny Swanson’s cracker against Hibs at Easter Road, Andis Shala and Mihael Kovacevic coming up as unlikely scorers in the 3-3 Quarter Final draw against Rangers at Ibrox and of course the three goals in the Scottish Cup Final against Ross County.

But once again, I’m going to go with a 90th minute winner.

David “Treble Buster” Robertson’s last gasp goal to send us through to the semi final against Raith Rovers and knock Rangers out of the cup was just awesome. I mean, here you have probably the least technically gifted player in the team scoring a decisive winner in the last minute of a game… with his arse.

That’s right, Robbo just closed his eyes and flinched his way to victory. There were far better goals that season, but that one was the most memorable for me.

2010/11 – David Goodwillie; Dundee United 2-2 Motherwell; March 13th, 2011

It was an overhead kick! Of course it was going to win.

The funny thing is that Goodie had been trying to connect with these overhead kicks for a few games in the run up to this one and he wasn’t getting anywhere close. Yet on this occasion – on the same weekend as Wayne Rooney scored a similar goal that naturally garnered far more press attention – he caught it sweet and left Darren Randolph with no chance.

If you watch that goal again on YouTube you can hear the Tannadice Tannoy Announcer shouting “Goalscorer for Dundee United, David Goodwillie” in what must be his “Orgasm Voice”. Sensational.

2011/12 – Paul Dixon; Dundee United 4-0 Kilmarnock; February 21st, 2012

2011/12 was a solid if unspectacular season for Dundee United, and there isn’t too much that stands out all that much. But there was one midweek game against Kilmarnock that saw United hit four goals of the highest quality to see the visitors off. Pick of the bunch for me was Paul Dixon’s goal.

From way outside the box, the left back launched the ball straight at the goal, leaving Cammy Bell with no chance. Not much of a story, but a top notch, clean strike.


2012/13 – Gary Mackay Steven; Dundee United 3-4 Celtic; April 14th 2013

Another season with a good few to choose from, not least Johnny Russell’s piledriver against Dundee, but the clear winner for me is GMS’s goal against Celtic at Hampden in the Semi Final of the Scottish Cup.

What makes it for me is not the finish itself – as composed as it was – but rather the build up play. First of all, Jon Daly does tremendously well to outmuscle the Celtic defence and hold the ball up long enough for GMS and Ryan Gauld to run the length of the field to support him. Then he plays a nice ball to GMS, who passes it to Gauld in space.

And this is where the most impressive part is.

Gauld – 17 years old and making only the third first team start of his career – has the composure and footballing intelligence not to go for goal himself, but rather to lay a perfectly weighted ball back to Mackay Steven, leaving him with a simple finish. Very few players with 300 first team starts under their belt would make the decision Gauld did there, which made it even more incredible.


2013/14 – Brian Graham; Dundee United 4-1 Partick Thistle; November 23rd, 2013

As you might expect, this season has been a fun one for Dundee United fans so far, with exciting attacking play, great young players, and an astonishing amount of goals scored. Just the other day, United put Motherwell to the sword 5-1, and in that game, at least three of the goals were better than almost anything else on this list so far. Stuart Armstrong’s goal was terrific. But the most memorable? I’ll give it to Brian Graham’s strike against Partick Thistle.

Why? Well just like Season 2013/14, this gets in because of a Ryan Gauld assist.

In that game, Gauld had already set up three goals, but the fourth one was perhaps the most perfect through ball I’ve seen in the flesh. You watch the way he effortlessly plays the ball to Brian Graham’s feet at just the right speed and direction that the Partick Thistle defender just could not get anywhere near it, even at full stretch. Awesome.

Graham’s finish was not to be sniffed at either, especially considering he was under pressure to get his first goal for the club after a series of dodgy misses, but this one was all about the skill in the passing. I think that sums up the style and technique this current crop of Dundee United players have more than any other.


Stuart is the Scottish team researcher for Football Manager and can be followed on twitter. He also does a fair bit of his own writing over at Stuart Milne Reviews Stuff, which we would urge you to check out.

Should Gary Locke, Alan Archibald, Allan Johnston and Danny Lennon stay or go this summer? We discuss this and more on Monday’s podcast