Lawrence Shankland magic makes the difference for Dundee United
But, when the Scotland striker makes his first start and scores a goal of real quality to set a fire under his team-mates who then go on to secure their first win in four games, there is no doubting how important the player is to the Tannadice side’s season.
This was a match both sides went into on the back of difficult spells and in the opening half an hour the home side were scrappy and it was the visitors who looked more likely to get the victory, with Kyle McAllister and Lee Erwin producing near misses.
But that was before Shankland stepped up to remind everyone why he had commanded so much attention last season, netting the goals that secured United promotion, and why he had been elevated to the status of international striker while still operating in the Championship.
The Paisley side managed to contain him until the 33rd minute but when he made his Premiership scoring breakthrough he did so in style.
A weak attempt to head clear a corner was punished when, even with his back to goal, he was able to volley his effort into the top corner of Zdenek Zlamal’s goal.
“Sometimes you need a wee bit of magic and a wee bit of luck, so for something to come off like that and give us the lead was good,” said Shankland.
“We knew it was an important game and we had to bounce back from the results we’ve had and on a personal note I’m delighted to get off the mark and get my first goal of the season and first in the Premiership.
“I always knew I would get goals, it just helps if you are on the pitch, playing in the league every week! I knew it would come eventually but I backed myself and had that belief that I would get a goal today.
“If it is going to go in like that and that is my first then it was worth waiting on. I was delighted to see it hit the net and get a win in my first start back.”
That goal tilted the balance of power, as St Mirren were put on the back foot and the home side finally found some flow and a greater cutting edge. There was still some ebb and flow to the play, though, and Richard Tait forced a point blank save from Benjamin Siegrist while Jon Obika came close with an overhead effort. United were also slightly fortunate that Calum Butcher was only yellow carded for a reckless challenge, although they were unlucky not to double the lead through Nicky Clark following a Shankland cutback.
But if the game still looked like it could go any way at that stage, United grabbed the contest by the scruff of the neck as the second half got going, and could have added another two or three goals in the first 15 minutes as Zlamal denied Adrian Sporle, before the post did the same with a Clark shot. The keeper was busy again as Ian Harkes, and Shankland had shots blocked but he could do nothing to stop the third attempt, a driven effort from Sporle.
The away side’s hopes of a comeback were not aided by the fact Tait was red carded after an hour, for a needless challenge on young Logan Chalmers in the corner, which Goodwin later said was bourne of frustration as his side had struggled to come to terms with the burgeoning United threat.
Substitute Dylan Connolly did pull one back, an angled 64th-minute strike and St Mirren tried to pile balls into the home box in the hope of finding another. But United had something to hold on to and saw out the game to deservedly take all three points.
“It’s a sore one, a very frustrating afternoon,” said Goodwin. “We’ve lost 12 goals and nine of them have been from corners or crosses into the box. That’s something I’m going to have to sort out.”
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