JACKIE McNamara has almost certainly managed his final game for Dundee United after ten-man St Johnstone came from a goal down to win the Tayside derby.
The defeat Park leaves United second bottom of the Premiership, without a win since 8 August, their sole league victory of the season.
McNamara met with chairman Stephen Thompson immediately after the loss in Perth and it is understood that his departure will be confirmed once the formalities of his contract termination and compensation have been completed.
United refused to comment but assistant manager Simon Donnelly was sent to speak to the press after the defeat which left the club with five points from nine matches.
McNamara, 41, left Partick Thistle to become United manager in January 2013. He guided the club to the finals of the Scottish Cup in 2014 and the League Cup last season, losing both. He is contracted to United until the summer of 2017 after signing an extension in February 2014.
The team have struggled this year amid the sales of key players Gary Mackay-Steven, Stuart Armstrong and Nadir Ciftci to Celtic. Since the sale of the first two at the end of the winter transfer window, United have only won four of 24 league games.
If the mood music around the club has been decidedly downbeat so far this season, the notes descended into sombre after this latest reverse. Their gutsy Tayside rivals came back to win this game despite being a goal and a man down after 24 minutes.
The disgruntled United support made their views on McNamara known in what can euphemistically be termed blunt fashion towards the end of this dire performance.
St Johnstone effectively suffered a quadruple whammy of conceding a penalty, having goalkeeper Alan Mannus sent off for his part in it, the withdrawal of the electric-paced Michael O’Halloran through injury and Billy Mckay scoring from the spot all in the space of a minute. Yet they still came out on top.
Manager Tommy Wright said that it was probably one of the most satisfying displays his players had ever given him. “After the sending off I did feel it was important that we kept two up not to let them get a foothold in the game and we did that – our two strikers kept two, three, sometimes four of them occupied at the back and that gave us an opportunity to gain control of the game.”
Both sides had been trading punches in an entertaining fashion when the decisive moment in the game – though not ultimately with the expected outcome – arose. Tam Scobbie was short with an attempted headed back pass, Mckay nipped in and was clattered by Mannus. Referee Bobby Madden correctly called it as a penalty though the red card for the goalkeeper seemed a tad harsh. Mckay dispatched the spot kick beyond Mannus’s replacement Zander Clark without fuss.
Instead of seizing this golden opportunity to impose themselves, United were curiously diffident. They were guilty, too, of failing to heed the warning signs that the hosts and the muscular Graham Cummins in particular still carried a threat.
Just after the hour mark it came to fruition as Liam Craig’s outswinging corner was met by the Irish striker and he sent a looping header into the corner of the net. He wasn’t finished either. With the United fans looking on aghast he won an aerial duel on the edge of the visitors’ box and flicked the ball into the path of substitute Simon Lappin who calmly lofted the ball over Luis Zwick to secure an improbable three points.
McNamara didn’t appear for the post-match interviews but Donnelly acknowledged the pressure on the management team at Tannadice.
“We can deal with the pressure, but we need to deal with it as a team,” Donnelly said. “It not going to get easier, it’s only going to get worse until we turn it around.”
It is unlikely they’ll get the chance.