ON A COLD and rainy night in the Wee County, love certainly was not in the air as Alloa Athletic and Dundee United met for the third time this season.

Friday, February 14 is a day of warmth and affection, but there is certainly no love lost between these two sides, who came into this game having defeated each other once already this season.

Indeed, recent form suggested there would be a closer match than indicated by the distance between the two sides in the league table.

Dundee United were top of the table ahead of kick-off, sitting pretty with 53 points and looking likely to be promoted. Alloa, on the other hand, sat second bottom, 28 points behind the visitors and two above bottom-placed Partick Thistle.

However, the past six league games saw the sides share an identical record, taking 11 points from a possible 18 with three wins, two draws and a defeat.

Dundee United had failed to win in their last four games in all competitions and were looking to bounce back on their second trip of the season to the Wee County.

The Tangerines took the game by the scruff of the neck from the get-go and got behind left-back Liam Dick almost immediately, with Ian Harkes and Rakish Bingham looking the most likely to cause problems.

Robert Thomson pressed hard as the Wasps tried to gain a foot-hold and managed to put a ball into the box which came to nothing.

With 11 minutes on the clock, a superb volleyed pass from Kevin Cawley led to the home side’s first shot on target; however, Steven Hetherington’s shot was blocked.

The game picked up as the half went on and Harkes continued to pull the strings but Robbie Deas, on loan from Celtic, was absolutely solid and even early in the first half it looked increasingly likely Dundee United would struggle to get past him.

Lawrence Shankland, the league’s top scorer, pressed relentlessly, but a promising spell of possession for the Wasps saw them pass around him comfortably.

Dundee United manager Robbie Neilson reacted furiously to a challenge on the edge of his side's box and was subsequently booked; however, Iain Flannigan’s free-kick didn’t trouble Benjamin Siegrist.

The visitors' captain Calum Butcher was given a yellow just before the half-time whistle and Kieran Wright, commanding in his box, got more of Scott Taggart than he did the ball as referee Steven McLean brought the half to a close.

A crowd of 1,442 were in attendance at the Indodrill Stadium and half-time probably came at the wrong time for the hosts, who were looking the more likely of the two teams to take the lead.

The second 45 began with a shot from distance by Shankland which was easily dealt with by Wright despite the initial spill. Dundee United came out looking like they meant business and Ben Stirling, who was lucky not to be cautioned for a lunge in the first half, was subsequently booked for stopping a Tangerine counter-attack.

Butcher, just minutes after a potential second yellow, showed a bit of class as he spun away from two Wasps on the halfway line before a corner on the hour mark almost found the Alloa net.

Two minutes later the best chance of the match fell to the hosts, specifically to Stirling’s head, as his header from point-blank range was cleared off the line by Siegrist.

Bingham, making his debut for United, continued to look more likely to score than his team-mate Shankland, whose shoulders dropped lower and lower as the game progressed and he struggled to make his mark.

As the game progressed, it became increasingly likely that the match would be finishing as a stalemate as either side showed a lack of conviction in the final third, with Dundee United’s final ball, which Neilson would attribute to the surface post-match, being consistently poor.

Liam Dick, who took home the award for man-of-the-match, continued to press even with 87 minutes on the clock while Stirling and Deas remained defensively solid.

A Dundee United header minutes from time went over the bar before a mix-up in communication in the hosts’ box almost gifted the visitors a late goal and the three points.

In the end, the two teams shared the spoils and despite the huge gap in points and league position, it would be hard to argue Alloa wouldn’t be the most disappointed with the point.

Kevin O’Hara, Scottish Championship player of the month for January, struggled to replicate the form which saw him find the net twice in three consecutive games.

However, the point takes the Wasps three clear of the bottom of the table and equal with Queen of the South, who have two games in hand.

The hosts will be able to take confidence from a gritty performance and will certainly feel that defensive shut-outs like this will surely see them survive the drop.