Simon Murray, the hat-trick hero, provided manager Ray McKinnon with a happy homecoming as Dundee United breezed past shell-shocked Cowdenbeath last night.
McKinnon was in the Tannadice dug-out for the first time since taking over the managerial reins and the former United player watched in delight as marvellous Murray turned on the style to floor their part-time opponents.
The Tangerines raced into a 4-1 lead just after the half-hour mark through ruthless Murray’s quickfire double, plus further goals by new boys Lewis Toshney and Cammy Smith.
Chris Turner hit a consolation strike for the Blue Brazil in 25 minutes before Murray rounded off his treble in 72 minutes and substitute Henri Anier got in on the act three minutes from time to complete the rout.
Dutch new boy Nick van der Velden was on the bench after United secured clearance for the 34-year-old front man following his move from Willem II to become their seventh summer signing.
In his first competitive match on home soil, McKinnon handed debuts to Irish ace Willo Flood following his return from Aberdeen, while on-loan Dons striker Cammy Smith also started for the first time.
For Liam Fox’s League 2 visitors, this had the makings of another tough tie having gone down to Inverness just a few days earlier, and so it proved.
The hosts made the breakthrough in just four minutes.
Former Kilmarnock attacker Tope Obadeyi found space down the left and his cross into the middle was bundled home by Murray from close range.
That allowed United to settle any nerves against their lower-league opponents and Smith was soon catching the eye.
The 20-year-old showed blistering pace as he went on a driving run down the right and was eventually halted by Turner.
From the resultant free-kick, Scott Fraser whipped over a tempting ball which was turned home at the far post by full-back Toshney.
Cowdenbeath could barely get out of their own half at this time and, shortly after, United went for the jugular again with Obadeyi just inches away from connecting with Fraser’s dangerous cross.
However, they made no mistake in 21 minutes. Fraser’s defence-splitting pass was inch-perfect for Smith, who took a touch before calmly stroking his 12-yard shot home.
Cowdenbeath did pull one back in spectacular fashion in 25 minutes. Turner latched on to the ball 30 yards from goal and the full-back blasted a left-foot shot high past helpless home goalkeeper Cammy Bell.
In 32 minutes, United killed any hopes the Central Park outfit had of mounting a comeback. Smith’s low cut-back was textbook for the on-rushing Murray to drill home.
The visitors started the second half by putting on Burton O’Brien for Gerald McLauchlan but it made no difference to the contest,
On 62 minutes, United fans had their first glimpse of Van der Velden when he came on for Obadeyi while Fraser was replaced by Blair Spittal.
But the night belonged to Murray who struck again from close range and Anier put the icing on the cake with a sweet 87th-minute finish.