St Mirren undone as United level late again

St Mirren 1
Dundee Utd 1

Paul Barnes at St Mirren Park

Some have suggested lately that Dundee United’s players have been invited across the pond as guests on David Letterman’s Late Show. Their hypothetical auditions continued apace at St Mirren Park this evening. They’ve now scored in the last five minutes to equalise in six SPL games this season.

Just as Garry Kenneth did four days ago against Kilmarnock, David Robertson equalised for the Arabs in the dying embers of the game to take a point back to Tayside. St Mirren had opened the scoring seven minutes short of the interval, a first SPL goal for summer signing Darren McGregor.

A poor crowd of just over 3,000 braved a chilly January Wednesday in Paisley to take in the action, and it took only four minutes for them to witness what could have, and probably should have, been the opener. Craig Conway, making his second successive start for the visitors after a lengthy spell in the treatment room, darted down the left and whipped a ball across the home side’s six yard box. Johnny Russell, lively throughout the game, could only muster a faint clip at the back post and Jim Goodwin was on hand to clear to safety.

At the other end defender Marc McAusland fancied himself to break St Mirren’s dry scoring run – coming into this game they had failed to score in the league since Boxing Day – with a twenty yard swipe that sailed high and wide after a neat lay-off by Paul McGowan.

The visitors’ best chance of the first half fell, once again, to Russell. As the ball was fired into him twelve yards out with his back to goal, he spun his man and fired towards Gallacher’s net. Throwing out his legs instinctively, the Saints goalkeeper made a fine save.

It was the home side, however, who made the breakthrough seven minutes before the interval. Jure Travner whipped an inswinging corner across the United box, and Darren McGregor rose unchallenged to head to the far post. Morgaro Gomis desperately tried to skelp the ball off the line but not in time for whistler Craig Thomson to award the goal.

The visitors appeared with more urgency at the start of the second half and could have taken the lead six minutes from the restart. Youngster Stuart Armstrong floated a hopeful ball into the box and Goodwillie’s glancing header was palmed for a corner by the ever alert Gallacher. From the resultant set piece United had what looked like a strong appeal for a penalty waved away by Thomson. McGregor and Garry Kenneth bundled to the ground as the ball floated over their heads and when the ball was fired back across goal the St Mirren defender appeared to hold down his opposite number.

Kenneth was forthright about the legitimacy of his claims: “Of course it was a penalty. The boy pulled me to the ground. If he didn’t I’d have had a tap in.”

Still fizzing with the apparent injustice, Kenneth was booked for dissent a minute later after appealing once again for a spot kick, although this time his protests appeared to be more in hope than expectation.

United pressed relentlessly for a leveller as the second half wore on. Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben wasted little in midfield and provided Conway, Goodwillie and Russell with ample opportunity to stretch their legs and run at the St Mirren backline. As the minutes ticked by the hosts gradually began to cramp at the edge of their box, with few opportunities to gain territory in United’s half.

In the 73rd minute the pressure applied on the Saints almost saw United draw level. When Paddy Cregg was dispossessed cheaply in midfield Johnny Russell was fed wide, bearing down on the box. His sprayed centre was met by Goodwillie who couldn’t adjust his feet quickly enough and ended up tapping upwards onto Gallacher’s bar.

Sensing vulnerability in the hosts’ rear-guard, United manager Peter Houston used his three substitutions in an attempt to galvanise his fatigued side, Danny Cadamarteri, David Robertson and Andis Shala being introduced to the action. His enterprising decisions paid off.

Just two minutes left on the clock and United scored their now customary late equaliser. St Mirren’s defence came out in unity to meet David Goodwillie’s cross, but substitute David Robertson evaded the offside trap. Sneaking in behind Jure Travner at the back post, he divert a well guided header over the helpless Gallacher and into the far corner.

Cue a shake of the head from Travner’s manager Danny Lennon: “He could have done a lot better for me with the ball at the back post. You’ve got to defend for your life at that stage of the game.”

For United manager Peter Houston, Robertson’s last gasp equaliser was scant consolation for a dominating second half display. “If it was a boxing match they would have stopped the second half. We absolutely battered them.”

If success was measured on perseverance and strength of character, United’s Late Show stars have certainly earned their stripes.


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