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St.Johnstone never say die attitude secured top six place after 1-1 draw with United

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spl1Saints boss Lomas praises teams never say die attitude as consecutive top six finish is earned after a 1-1 draw with Dundee United at McDiarmid Park.

After kicking their heals for three weeks, St.Johnstone welcomed Dundee Utd as they looked to grab the one point required to secure top six in the SPL for the second consecutive season. Their Tayside rivals went to Perth desperate for victory to ease into the top six with one game left to play before the split.

United manager Jackie McNamara had to deal with the loss of Gary Mackay-Steven who came back from international duty with a hamstring injury, so looked to teenager Ryan Gauld to provide the spark to lift them into the top six.

With so much to play for both teams started with great endeavour, but were ultimately let down in the early stages by some poor passing choices and execution. Nerves were ultimately the factor with so much to play for, as the game progressed both teams settled into their stride.

St. Johnstone showed some neat passages of play with good link up down the flanks, while United countered well with young Gauld an increasing threat.

Disaster struck for the home side on 23 minutes as they overplayed their way out of defence and when Millar dispossessed Liam Craig on the half way line. He wasted no time as he drove towards the home penalty area and slid through an inch perfect pass to youngster Gauld who calmly slotted the ball past the on-rushing Mannus into the empty net.

United were playing well on the counter and as the Saints reacted positively to going a goal down, they often left space behind the midfield for Gardyne and Gauld to exploit, but with neither found the composure required in the final third to add to the score in the first half.

With no changes at half time, it was St.Johnstone who set the tone for the second half as they started heavy on the front foot and never relented till the final whistle. United struggled to gain any foothold in the second 45 minutes and with Rangers target Daly being a passenger for the entire game, they struggled to mount any effective offence with no central point to target, as the Saints mounted continuous pressure in their search for an equaliser.

Time and again they knocked on the door, but a goal line clearance from Douglas and a finger tip save from Cierzniak touching MacLean’s header onto the post.

And then came the moment that gave St.Johnstone the upper hand. A moment of madness from United youngster Stuart Armstrong saw him pick up a second yellow for a foolish dive in the box in front of referee Brines. Armstrong received his marching orders and left his team mates facing an uphill battle to hold onto their lead.

With the game hitting the 90 minute mark MacLean was given a great chance to claw the home side level as a mistake by youngster Soutar saw him left clear in the box, but he blazed high and wide.

As the game rolled into injury time the home side never let up in their pressure and that eventually paid off in the 93rd minute, when Abeid’s corner was headed home by the unmarked Craig. That goal turned him from first half sinner to second half saint as his goal secured the point need to confirm a second consecutive top six finish for St.Johnstone. As for United it was a sub-standard performance especially in the second half where they never got out of first gear.

St Johnstone: Mannus, Mackay, Wright, Anderson, Millar, Davidson, Tade, Craig, MacLean, Vine, Scobbie.

Subs: Tuffey, Cregg, Hasselbaink, Edwards, Miller, Abeid, Caddis.

Dundee United: Cierzniak, Watson, McLean, Dillon, Douglas, Millar, Flood, Armstrong, Gardyne, Daly, Gauld.

Subs: Banks, Ryan, Tornstrand, Dow, Boulding, Soutar, Johnston.

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