Dundee United 0 St Mirren 1 Dorman (48)
A COMPOSED performance from St Mirren, full of tidy displays in every department, last night earned Gus MacPherson's men a spot in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup against St Johnstone.
While Andy Dorman's clinical finish in the second half was all that separated the sides after three hours of action, no one who saw this tie in its entirety would grudge St Mirren their place in the last eight.
The Paisley side were again the more enterprising outfit for long stretches of this fifth round replay. Their passing, certainly, carried greater conviction and it was only the lack of a cutting edge in front of goal which prevented a more emphatic win. Marc Corcoran's miss in time added on for injury was particularly wasteful.
Although United drew strength from typically robust displays in defence from their centre-backs, Lee Wilkie and Darren Dods, it wasn't until the closing 30 minutes that the home side produced the kind of aggression which has typified their play this year.
It might have helped if Noel Hunt had got closer to Mark De Vries earlier in the tie. When the Irishman latched onto the Dutchman's flicks, United looked more dangerous. Hunt's overhead kick in the 76th minute, for example, was their best effort, but Mark Howard responded with a thrillingly instinctive save.
Low attendances have been a feature of this season's Scottish Cup and another poor turn-out must have been frustrating for two sides with a string of decent performances under their belt this year.
That said, on a misty Tayside evening, there was nothing unclear about St Mirren's intentions at the start of this televised replay.
One of the most improved sides in Scotland this season, St Mirren added another string to their bow during January's transfer window with the acquisition of Dorman, a young Englishman who learned the game at college in America.
His runs from midfield in support of the strike force of Craig Dargo and Billy Mehmet were a pleasing feature of the first game, as was Corcoran's play on the flank.
The winger's break in the first minute caught United on the hop and they heaved a sigh of relief when Dargo's shot was blocked. Corcoran proved a handful for Willo Flood. His sixth minute cross set off more alarm bells in the United defence. Mehmet's angled shot from the edge of the box in the 16th minute, which slipped narrowly wide of the target, confirmed St Mirren's early dominance.
Having been United's outstanding player in Paisley, goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska came perilously close to gifting the visitors the lead when he lost possession under no pressure while keeping the ball in play and presented Dargo with a chance to open the scoring, albeit from a tight spot. Dargo pounced eagerly enough, but couldn't calculate the angle.
Craig Levein's men tend to produce their most effective attacking form playing at a high tempo, but there was a rushed feel about their play during the first half of this game.
Although they'd struggled to get out of second gear at Love Street earlier this month with a packed midfield, United again stuck with a 4-5-1 formation. However, they also relied on the same men who swept Aberdeen out of the CIS Insurance Cup last week. Christian Kalvenes was recalled at left back, David Roberston returned in midfield and De Vries led the line on his own with Hunt on the left and Craig Conway working the right flank.
Hunt's well placed right foot shot from 18 yards after 25 minutes, which prompted a fine diving save from Mark Howard, was an overdue reminder of the home side's capabilities.
The Irishman also watched a 20-yard free kick narrowly squeak past the post. Other than those isolated incidents, the reliance on De Vries' power and touch tended to make United a little predictable. St Mirren, on the other hand, were more adept at getting men in behind the United defence.
Corcoran's pace was a persistent threat and Dorman was unfortunate not to get on the end of another inviting cut-back. Having also dominated the first game, it was a mystery how St Mirren could go so long without scoring.
The second-half followed the same pattern as before with the Paisley side willing to shoot on sight and piecing together the more fluent attacks. Entirely deserving of a breakthrough goal, St Mirren eventually got their noses in front after 48 minutes. Dargo and Mehmet combined smoothly down the right to set up the chance as Dorman, in the inside right channel, timed his run perfectly into the box and shot past Zaluska from eight yards.
The response from United was to bring on Danny Swanson, their talented young recruit from Berwick, as a replacement for Robertson. When Hunt got closer to De Vries, United looked more incisive. From the big man's head flick, Hunt's 57th minute half volley was well blocked by Howard.
Although this was United's best spell of the night, they were still looking for a spark. And it was not forthcoming.
Dundee United: Zaluska, Flood, Wilkie (Dillon 82), Dods, Kalvenes (Odhiambo 88), Kerr, David Robertson (Swanson 57), Gomis, Conway, Hunt, De Vries. Subs not used: McLean, Buaben.
St Mirren: Howard, Barron, Potter, Haining, Maxwell, van Zanten, Murray, Dorman, Corcoran, Mehmet, Dargo (Kean 82). Subs not used: Mathers, Miranda, McGinn, Millen.