St Johnstone boost survival hopes on day of firsts as 10-man Dundee United left with plenty work to do

Their city rivals may have secured Premiership status, but Dundee United still have plenty work to do to ensure they join Dundee in the top flight next season after a 1-0 defeat at St Johnstone.

While the Championship title decider on Friday produced eight goals, it was a solitary Liam Gordon strike late in the first-half which secured a vital win for Saints, with United's attempts to chase an equaliser hampered by a red card shown to Charlie Mulgrew on the hour mark.

Referee Alan Muir - backed by VAR - deemed that Mulgrew had denied a goal-scoring opportunity when he pulled down Melker Hallberg on the left touchline as he looked set for a clear run into the box. Debatable? Yes. The correct decision. Probably.

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United almost rescued a point in dramatic circumstances when Steven Fletcher rattled a volley off the crossbar in injury time, but while the match was evenly contested, Saints were good value for the win that has given their survivial hopes a massive lift.

St Johnstone's Liam Gordon celebrates his goal in the 1-0 win over Dundee United. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)St Johnstone's Liam Gordon celebrates his goal in the 1-0 win over Dundee United. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
St Johnstone's Liam Gordon celebrates his goal in the 1-0 win over Dundee United. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The relegation picture now looks far less bleak for them after a Saturday of firsts ... a first win in eight, a first home win since beating Rangers on November 6, a first clean sheet since February 1, a first goal of the season for Gordon, and a first win under interim manager Steven MacLean, who has now taken four points from six since replacing Callum Davidson.

MacLean is making his mark and, on this showing, has brought a tenacity and spark back to the St Johnstone team that had been lost under his predecessor. They are not safe yet, but maintaining a six point gap to bottom club Ross County and moving five ahead of both United and Kilmarnock with four games left has put the Perth side in a healthy position.

For United, the end of their three-match winning streak - combined with County's victory over Livingston - means that they are now just a point ahead of the Highlanders ahead of their trip to Tannadice next week. There is zero margin for error.

Despite being one place lower in the table, the form book suggested United were favourites in Perth - and backed by a 2700-strong army of travelling fans they lived up to that billing in the early stages.

Quick out the traps with an attacking intent, they had Saints on the ropes with defender Jason Brown forced to panic with an overhit passback to goalkeeper Remi Matthews that went straight out for a corner, bringing a huge cheer from the sea of Tangerine in the Shed End behind the goal.

In another attack, Ilmari Niskanen had a chance but saw his shot blocked for a corner by Andy Considine. United's strong start was a test of Saints mettle and they responded postively, wrestling back control of the match with Stevie May putting in a tireless shift up front to get his team up the park.

The goal was a scrappy one - and avoidable from United's perspective. A long throw into the box resulted in chaos with a miscued clearance from Mulgrew, followed by a fresh-air swipe from May, seeing the ball land at the feet of Gordon who provided the touch of composure amid the mayhem to poke the ball over the line.



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