Dec 28 2012 by Alison Lowson, Perthshire Advertiser
In an unpredictable championship where results are hard to call, the outcome of this intriguing Boxing Day Tayside derby raised few eyebrows.
United seem to have forgotten how to win at Tannadice and draws of the 1-1 strain have also peppered St Johnstone’s card this term.
But, coming hard on the heels of a grim performance in Aberdeen while Santa was limbering-up for his big day, more than 1000 travelling fans were treated to a much improved display.
Both teams had plenty of chances, although United relied on deliveries from free-kicks and corners to pose problems.
The team lines lodged by manager Steve Lomas showed five changes from the Granite City, with United fans irritated by a sequence dating back to August without a home wine.
But it was the visitors who were deflated within 90 seconds of the kick-off as United forged ahead with a goal which undermined the management’s methodical derby preparations.
A weak Frazer Wright clearance and a needless Paddy Cregg barge on Johnny Russell saw a Barry Douglas free-kick from the right headed home by Gavin Gunning from 10 yards, with marker David McCracken nowhere to be seen.
To their credit, Saints snapped back and Patrick Cregg twice tested keeper Radosław Cierzniak from outside the penalty box before United almost pulled off a repeat of their opener with McCracken again losing Gunning at a free-kick.
Back to form Gregory Tade teed-up Steven MacLean with a knock-down but the striker’s low shot was gripped by the keeper on the line.
Cierzniak produced his first top-notch save in the 26th minute from a powerful header bulleted in by Liam Craig from a Tam Scobbie delivery.
Perth fans demanded a penalty when Tade tumbled under a challenge from Douglas but referee Calum Murray didn’t share their enthusiasm.
Luckily for Saints, at the other end, Gunning was mesmerised as an Alan Mannus touch on Skacel’s angled strike slipped past the target without a finishing touch.
The second half start mirrored the first but this time it was Saints celebrating and United lamenting the standard of defending.
Tade released Peter Pawlett and while the influential on loan winger seemed to have overrun it the cutback squeezed past the keeper and rolled into the net off helpless defender Brian McLean.
Within seconds, Cierzniak defied Craig with his legs as the midfielder tried to stroke home a MacLean back heel.
Murray Davidson advanced onto a lay-off from the troublesome Tade but scooped his stretching shot inches wide in the 68th minute.
McCracken then denied United a tap-in and, from the corner, Cregg hacked Gunning’s header off the line.
But Saints could have won it minutes from the end when a delicate Rowan Vine touch released Tade on a charge only for the keeper to block the Frenchman’s effort.