The Dundee United Football Club Historical Archive. Preserving United History Since 2006.
There were unique circumstances surrounding this Tayside derby today. Both clubs entered this game, still harbouring realistic hopes of claiming a Champions League qualifying place. With United sitting one point behind their hosts in the league, the team and supporters knew three points would be crucial if their lofty ambitions of reaching third position could be realised. The large crowd that had filtered their way into the stadium ahead of this game was a measure of the anticipation associated with this match and the closing stages of the SPL season. 5826 supporters turned up for this lunch time kick off to see if their side could make a positive start to the post split run of fixtures. The fantastic atmosphere created inside the stadium prior to the game was a fitting prelude to what turned out to be an exciting clash. Peter Houston opted to stick with the same team that lost their previous game against Aberdeen, hopeful of a reaction from a side that have made a habit of quickly bouncing back from defeats. St Johnstone set out with three players up front and their attacking formation looked to unsettle United in the opening minutes. The Saints were the first to threaten when Sandaza earned a free kick within the first minute. Riordan struck the set piece from the edge of the area, only for Pernis to push the ball into the path of Sheridan. Fortunately for United, the striker’s shot from a narrow angle struck the outside of the post. Riordan was causing problems early on and only seconds later he found space on the St Johnstone left. His cut back for Davidson provided the midfielder with a glimpse of goal but his low drive from the edge of the box was straight into the arms of a grateful Pernis. After the Perth side’s bright start, United gradually worked their way back into the game. Their first opportunity came in the 15th minute when the St Johnstone keeper fumbled a cross ball and let in Flood to flash the ball over a yard from goal. United continued to dominate the first half, forcing 5 corners in the opening 30 minutes, but could not create any clear openings. PFA Scotland Player of the Year nominee, Jon Daly, was next to come close when he headed a Flood cross just inches wide of the right post of Mannus. However, with 31 minutes on the clock, United took the lead. Rankin battled for the ball on the penalty spot and while lying on the turf, was able to direct the ball into the path of the on rushing Scott Robertson. The United midfielder drilled a low effort into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box to ignite the large tangerine army watching from the opposite end of the stadium. The Tannadice side continued to control the game through to the half time interval but could not profit further from a nervous looking Alan Mannus in the St Johnstone goal.United started the second half playing towards their band of 1960 supporters. In a fragmented opening 10 minutes, the only notes of interest came in the form of injury and substitutions. There was a blow for United in 54 minutes when Gavin Gunning was forced to leave the pitch with what looked like a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Watson. Tempers flared moments later. Sandaza was booked in the 55th minute following a foul on Dixon. The Spaniard then went on to clash with Dillon only seconds after and received a straight red card from referee Norris. The ex-United player then tussled with his own players as he trod toward the tunnel. The loss of Sandaza created some additional space on the park and substitute Watson was able to make regular forays up the right side. After a few speculative crosses, he found his accuracy with a measured ball onto the head of Daly. However, the big striker had to stretch for it and his header skimmed over the bar. United came close again in 79 minutes when a deep cross from Dixon was turned back into the danger area by Flood. Daly was first to pounce but screwed the ball wide from the edge of the six yard box. As the game drew to a close, Dixon was forced into an excellent last ditch tackle to clear the ball from the feet of Sheridan in a dangerous area. St Johnstone threw their keeper forward for a free kick in the final minute to try and claim an undeserved point, but to no avail. Moments later United broke up the park and as John Rankin drove toward the edge of the St Johnstone box, he let fly to score with a thunderous long range effort. That was to be the last action of an exciting game in which United fully deserved to win.