Cup thoughts off limits as Saints push for fourth
St Johnstone 2-0 Dundee United
The Perth club drew first blood over their cup final opponents thanks to their well-deserved 2-0 victory at McDiarmid Park in the league on Saturday, a feat secured by goals in either half by defender Steven Anderson and striker Stevie May.
Saints face Jackie McNamara’s United at Celtic Park on 17 May when the Tayside rivals will go head-to-head for the prestigious old trophy in Glasgow, which will be the Perth side’s first- ever Scottish Cup final in their 130-year history.
But until the time when the teams face each other again in a few weeks’ time, Wright maintains all of their thoughts will be on trying to improve on their current sixth position in the table.
He said: “It’s another win which is what we were looking for. We still have a few league games left when we will be looking to get further up the table.
“We will still be trying to finish fourth. This result takes us to within three points of Dundee United.
“A lot of attention is obviously on the cup final but it’s still a bit off. That’s what I’ve been telling the players and they know that. In the meantime, we just have to try and keep doing what we’re good at.
“It’s another clean sheet and that’s something we’ve been doing well at this season. It’s important to be solid and the lads looked like that today. We will be very much focused on 17 May when it comes round but until then there’s still a lot of football to be played.”
Although Saints had started more brightly, neither side were really at their best, but Saints took the lead in the 32nd minute after United full-back Keith Watson had fouled David Wotherspoon wide on the left.
From the resultant free kick, Anderson was left unchallenged as he rose at the far post to meet Wotherspoon’s cross and plant a firm header into the back of net.
The lively May twice came close to increasing his side’s lead before half-time, but saw his first effort, a left-foot shot from 16 yards, go over the bar, then, three minutes before the break, was denied when his low drive came crashing back off United goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak’s right-hand post.
The home side continued to create the better openings and should have scored again following the interval. only for Michael O’Halloran to completely miss his connection from point-blank range.
The woodwork came to United’s rescue again in the 65th minute when Wotherspoon’s effort came back off Cierzniak’s far post.
However, the home side did double their advantage 11 minutes later when Wotherspoon released Dave Mackay down the right and his cross into the box fell perfectly for May who duly slotted home.
Although United made a concerted effort to mount a fightback in the closing stages, they left it too late and Saints, who were well worth their victory, held on to secure the three points.
United assistant manager Simon Donnelly admitted his players were never at the races in the Fair City as boss McNamara watched from the stand as he began his three-match touchline ban.
Donnelly said: “It was just one of those days. It was pretty frustrating from start to finish. We didn’t really get going and then conceded what was a pretty poor first goal. There wasn’t much quality to our play which was disappointing. We wanted to try and put pressure on the teams above us in the league.”
United are now gearing up for their final four games of the league season before tackling Saints again for the chance to repeat their 2010 cup-winning heroics.
Donnelly added: “We’ll pick ourselves up. In the games which are left, we hope to get some momentum and confidence. That’s the important thing and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do over the next few weeks.”