Dundee United 3-0 Dunfermline

Dundee United leapfrogged St Johnstone into fourth spot with a win that leaves Dunfermline three points adrift at the foot of the Scottish Premier League.

It took dominant United until Jon Daly's superb shot on the turn after 49 minutes to break the deadlock.

In-form winger Gary Mackay-Steven weaved his way to the bye-line to set up Scott Robertson for a clinical finish with 10 minutes remaining.

Daly fired his second three minutes later to bury the disappointing Pars.

And stretching their unbeaten league run to nine games moves United ahead of the Saints on goal difference before the Perth side head to Celtic Park to take on the Scottish Premier League leaders on Sunday.

For Dunfermline, it was a chance missed to move level with second-bottom Hibernian, who visit Inverness Caledonian Thistle, also on Sunday.

Kevin Rutkiewicz and Andy Kirk came in at the expense of David Graham and Liam Buchanan as Pars manager Jim Jefferies adopted a more conservative line-up in an attempt to subdue in-form United.

But immediately the uncertainty at the heart of the defence that has bedevilled Dunfermline was in evidence as Paul Dixon's fine cross was diverted wide by the diving Daly.

Gavin Gunning was next to step out of the home defence and and he sent a long-range drive fizzing past a post.

Pars goalkeeper Chris Smith, whose nervy displays will lead to the arrival of Spanish goalkeeper Bernardo Dominguez next week, survived a scare when his weak punch landed at Dixon's feet and the full-back's first-time effort sailed through a sea of bodies but just wide.

United right-back Robbie Neilson, who had started in place of the injured Keith Watson, should have opened the scoring when he blazed over from six yards after being picked out superbly by Gary Mackay-Steven.

Dunfermline were on the back foot but could have taken the lead after 32 minutes, but Alex Keddie's header from Joe Cardle's free-kick soared over.

Smith did well to turn wide a powerful, 20-yard drive from Mackay-Steven and the Pars would have been pleased to reach half-time with the scores level.

However, they were behind four minutes into the second half when Daly controlled the ball on his chest before swivelling superbly to give Smith no chance with his powerful drive.

Mackay-Steven sent a drive straight at Smith, Johnny Russell ought to have done better than miss the target with a header and John Rankin curled an effort wide as United established firm control.

It was Mackay-Steven who set up the second goal, weaving past three Dunfermline players before rolling the ball back into the path of Robertson.

A dispirited Dunfermline defence was caught napping soon after when Daly was first to respond to a speculative Russell cross as United eased to sixth successive victory.

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