Saturday 24 December 2016, 12.30, Tannadice Park

The Scottish Championship tie between Dundee United and St Mirren.=

The fixture fairies had made the trip to Dundee a two gamer, with the previous night’s Dundee v Hearts game and the lunchtime kick off at Tannadice the following day.

The hangover wasn’t too bad after sampling some of Dundee’s hostelries the night before.

We took the opportunity to get tickets for the January game at Easter Road for United before the game.

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A second sight of both teams this season for us.  We took in United’s 3-1 defeat at Falkirk in September and were at the Renfrewshire derby at Paisley in August.

The sides have had contrasting fortunes since then.  United sit second in the league, just behind Hibs on goal difference.  Their draw at Raith Rovers the previous weekend saw them extend their unbeaten run to 13 matches.

St Mirren are on their third manager this season.  After Alex Rae was sacked in September, Allan McManus was in charge on a caretaker basis for almost a month before Jack Ross arrived in October.  After a slow start, the Saints have taken 7 points in their last three games and are showing signs of making their way up the league from bottom spot.

When the teams met in the reverse fixture in October United won by two goals to nil.

For United, Lewis Toshney missed out through suspension after a red card at Raith. Stewart Murdoch and Simon Murray both returned to the United squad after injury.

Saints were without the injured Ben Gordon and Jordan Stewart.

There were 7,247 in attendance.

The away side were first to show in the fourth minute.  Some good play created a chance for Morgan, but Edjenguele managed to block his shot.

Murray tried a shot from distance at the other end a minute later, but the shot was wide.

Morgan tried his own effort from distance in 8 minutes but it was of no trouble to United as it sailed over the bar.

A run down the right by Dillon in 9 minutes saw his cross into the Saints box met by the head of Spittal, but he looped it over the bar.

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In 16 minutes, a St Mirren corner saw Durnan and MacKenzie clash heads as Durnan headed the ball away.  There was a lengthy delay before MacKenzie was taken off.

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Magennis had a strike at the United goal from the right hand side of the box in 20 minutes, but it was wide.

With 25 minutes gone, Durnan also had to be replaced following the earlier head clash.

Durnan’s replacement, Donaldson, received a throw-in from Dillon just outside his own box in 27 minutes and stumbled over the ball.  Sutton was quick to take possession and gleefully slotted the ball past Bell to give Saints the lead.  Not a good start for Donaldson and the first goal United had conceded in six games.

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The home fans were stunned and were still shaking their heads when Andreu broke down the left and crossed low into the box.  The ball came all the way to Fraser at the back post who fired the ball into the bottom corner for an immediate equaliser.

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Murray went down in the Saints box in 30 minutes under pressure from Webster, but the referee wasn’t interested in his appeals for a penalty.

The game had come to life and in 32 minutes, McAllister crossed to the back post for Saints where Naismith struck the ball against the post from close range when it looked like a goal was inevitable.

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United then forced three corners in a row, but couldn’t take advantage of them.

In 40 minutes, Flood brought the ball forward for United and hit a crossfield ball to Fraser.  He cut inside and fired a low shot just wide of the target.

Fraser was involved again right on half time when he won a free kick on the corner of the St Mirren box.  He took it himself and floated the ball into the box and Murray got the slightest of touches at the back post to head United back in front.

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Saints must have been as gutted as United were happy at that goal.  They had more than matched their lofty opponents and would have been baffled how they went in at the break behind.

Fraser was involved again in the first incident of note in the second half when United won a free kick just outside the box in 49 minutes, but he hit it well over the bar.

In 58 minutes, Fraser played the ball to Spittal as the home side came forward.  Spittal lifted the ball into the box and Murray headed towards the bottom corner, but Gallacher did well to push the ball away.

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It was the turn of the United keeper to earn his wages in 63 minutes after Bell got down well to turn Morgan’s shot from 20 yards behind for a corner.  When the kick was cleared, Fraser looked to break for United, but Clarkson had other ideas and brought him down from behind to earn a booking.

A minute later, Webster joined his team mate in the book after bringing down Spittal.

Morgan was released in the United box in 67 minutes, but Edjenguele made a perfectly timed challenge to stop the Saints drawing level.

With 69 minutes gone, Murray ran into the Saints box but lost his balance as he was about to pull the trigger and could only drag his shot wide.

Dillon was next to have a go, his long range effort at the Saints goal in 77 minutes well saved by Gallacher.

Edjenguele saved the day for United again with another goal saving challenge, this time on Shankland, with four minutes left.

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In 88 minutes, Dixon was the next player yellow carded for United.

In injury time, United broke away and Andreu found Spittal in the box, but he blasted over the top when it looked a certain goal.

There was one last chance for the Saints to draw level, when a cross into the box evaded everyone and the home fans breathed a sigh of relief.

It certainly didn’t look like there was the length of the Division between the teams and St Mirren would have been annoyed not to take something from the game.

United had (what I presume) was an off day but would have been delighted with the three points.  The fans went home even happier when the news that Hibs had only drawn filtered through, meaning United had gone top of the league.

Edjenguele and Fraser were best for United, whose fans didn’t sound pleased when Donaldson came on, and his immediate mistake had them murmuring every time he got the ball for the rest of the first half.  He did well to get through this, as their noises sounded more like what the opposition fans try to do to unsettle a player.

St Mirren looked a decent side on this evidence and look to be heading in the right direction.  Morgan was their best player on the day.

Full Time: Dundee United 2 St Mirren 1

Admission: £20

Dundee United: 1 Cammy Bell, 2 Sean Dillon, 4 Mark Durnan (Donaldson 25), 3 Paul Dixon, 14 William Edjenguele, 16 Willo Flood, 12 Paul Telfer (van der Velden 70), 7 Blair Spittal, 10 Scott Fraser, 19 Tony Andreu, 9 Simon Murray (Smith 80). Subs: 5 Coll Donaldson, 8 Stewart Murdoch, 11 Tope Obadeyi, 15 Cammy Smith, 21 Luis Zwick, 23 Nick van der Velden, 24 Jamie Robson.

St Mirren: 12 Scott Gallacher, 2 Jason Naismith, 6 Gary Mackenzie (Baird 19), 4 Andy Webster, 3 Gary Irvine, 29 Kyle McAllister (Shankland 79), 42 Kyle Magennis, 8 Rocco Quinn (Clarkson 60), 10 Stevie Mallan, 17 Lewis Morgan, 9 John Sutton. Subs: 1 Jamie Langfield, 7 David Clarkson, 11 Calum Gallagher, 15 Jack Baird, 18 Lewis McLear, 20 Ryan Hardie, 25 Lawrence Shankland.

Referee: John McKendrick

Programme: £2.50.

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