Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara knows his side’s current form might not be good but he is confident about the future at Tannadice.
Dundee United 0 - 1 St Johnstone
Scorer: St Johnstone - Craig (38)
Liam Craig’s first-half strike gave St Johnstone their first Clydesdale Bank Premier League win over the Tangerines in 13 years and consigned the home team to their third successive post-split defeat. However, the United manager saw plenty to give him hope.
Luke Johnston, 19, started for the first time at right-back before he was replaced in the second-half by Rory Boulding after a good tussle with Saints burly striker Gregory Tade. In the heart of the United defence, 16-year-old John Souttar impressed again with 17-year-old forward Ryan Gauld coming on as second-half substitute as United tried to chase and equaliser.
And former Celtic and Scotland defender McNamara hailed the performances of the teenagers in his side. He said: “Luke has done well. It was a big ask, Tade is a strong, physical player as are most of the St Johnstone lads. They work hard for each other so it was a good learning curve for Luke and the rest of them. That’s five games young Souttar has played and I just think the boy is fantastic.
“You seen him under pressure and he still comes out with the ball, he still takes it, no matter how the game is going. That is bravery that I like to see, I wish there were a lot more like him.”
Craig, who has signed a pre-contract with Hibernian, went one better than the late leveller he got against United at McDiarmid Park at the start of last month which secured a to-six spot for Steve Lomas’s side. The 26-year-old midfielder illuminated a dull first-half in the 38th minute with a fine finish from inside the penalty area to leave the Perth club in fourth place, one point behind Inverness as the race for the Europa League spots enters its final two games.
The goal came when United failed to clear their lines ands Tade laid the ball across to Craig, who curled it past United keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak from around 14 yards.
Afterwards Craig joked when asked about the vocal travelling support giving him a great ovation as he left the pitch in injury-time to be replaced by Michael Doughty.
He said: “A few of the boys are telling me I did that on purpose but it was just a bit of cramp and, with the game that tight, I didn’t want to be the one that made a mistake for a goal.
“The fans have been excellent. When I’ve seen them about the town they’ve been complimentary and wished me all the best and I couldn’t ask for any more of the fans or the club to be honest. I want to finish the season well and look forward to a new challenge next year.”
United striker Johnny Russell came on in the second-half to make his first appearance since breaking his leg against Inverness in February.
But it was Saints who looked most likely to score again and, in the 82nd minute, Cierzniak made a good close-range save from Steven MacLean’s powerful drive before Tade blasted the rebound high over the bar.