No manager, no problem for Dundee United. Having dispensed with Ray McKinnon’s services as they became alarmed at a widening gap between themselves and Championship leaders St Mirren, they have now, in the space of two games, drawn themselves neck and neck with the Paisley side under the charge of caretaker Laurie Ellis.
Whilst the United board are expected to confirm the appointment of a new manager early next week, Ellis has done no harm to his stock in overseeing two victories, with yesterday’s deserved win over one of their main promotion rivals providing an excellent platform for his successor to build on. It was also to Ellis’s considerable credit that the Tannadice side demonstrated a level of assurance throughout this game that belied any suggestion that their managerial vacancy means they are lacking in cohesion or leadership. They took the game to the visitors and quickly put their noses in front when Mark Durnan sent a header from a Scott Fraser free-kick looping into the net. St Mirren goalkeeper Craig Samson seemed deceived by the flight of the ball and his indecision pretty much summed up a curiously lacklustre first-half showing by the Paisley side.
The visitors upped their game after the interval, however, and started to ask some questions of the United rearguard by sending in a series of dangerous crosses, but the latter held firm with Durnan in particular putting in a commanding performance. Jack Ross’s men were also guilty of wasting a number of decent openings on the break by selecting the wrong option.
Showing a degree of resilience that wasn’t often apparent earlier in the campaign, the hosts weathered this long spell of pressure while always carrying a far greater threat with the few opportunities that came their way. The impressive Fraser burst through the heart of the Saints defence only to see his drive tipped away by Samson at full stretch.
Tam Scobbie then looked to have made it 2-0 by knocking in another Fraser free-kick only for his effort to be ruled out for offside. However, shortly afterwards they did make it count as Sam Stanton picked up a lay-off inside the St Mirren box and drilled a low shot into the net to double the advantage.
A disappointing afternoon for St Mirren was given some late gloss as Adam Eckersley volleyed in a shot from 25 yards past Harry Lewis, but there was only time to re-centre the ball before the final whistle sounded.
“It was a great three points, hard earned,” reflected Ellis. “It’s the players that have got the result today – they’ve generated their spirit, they’ve shown a reaction and taken responsibility on the park.”