St Johnstone 3-0 Dundee Utd: Match Report

29 December 2013 04:31
St Johnstone 3-0 Dundee Utd: Match Report - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game as it happened.

May plunders hat-trick

Stevie May's first Scottish Premiership hat-trick took his tally for the season to 15 as St Johnstone sank a make-shift Dundee United side in Perth.

Arabs boss Jackie McNamara made eight changes to the side humbled by St Mirren on Boxing Day but the move back-fired as the McDiarmid men claimed a 3-0 win.

May put the hosts ahead first from the penalty spot after United defender Calum Butcher had been shown a straight red for a last-man barge on the Scotland Under-21 international.

His successful spot-kick ended his team's 460-minute wait for a goal and he grabbed another with a terrific strike from a ridiculously tight angle on 57 minutes before tapping in a third with two minutes left.

McNamara had promised to ring the changes following that painful 4-1 defeat in Paisley and stayed true to his word as only Radoslaw Cierzniak, Andrew Robertson and Paul Paton retained their places, while teenage sensation Ryan Gauld missed out altogether with a groin injury

But up against a patch-work outfit, the home side were able to sweep forward with ease.

They looked to take advantage of that space after nine minutes but Polish keeper Cierzniak showed he was at least still on top form as he dived smartly to block from Gwion Edwards' low drive after the on-loan Swansea midfielder slipped past Paton.

After 13 minutes, Frazer Wright then sent a volley over the bar as David Wotherspoon picked out his near-post run from a corner.

But the breakthrough came six minutes later as Sean Dillon's short headed back pass put his side in trouble. With May racing in on the lose ball and Cierzniak slow off his line, Butcher opted to halt the striker's run with a close line.

Referee Stephen Finnie was immediate as he pointed to the spot and just as quick as he flashed red at the offender. From the penalty, May was flawless as he rolled it down the middle.

McNamara was forced to reshape his side but his decision to put on defender John Souttar meant an early end to on-loan frontman David Goodwillie's farewell appearance for United.

The former Tannadice favourite's return to Tayside turned out to be an disappointing let down and he now returns to parent club Blackburn with his career at a crossroads.

It could have been worse for the team-mates he left behind, though, had Robertson not cleared a Murray Davidson header off the line, but United did at least create their first opening after 26 minutes when Ryan Dow planted the ball into the side netting from a tight angle.

Davidson then twice came close just before the half hour as first Cierzniak blocked well from a low drive while a scrum of Arabs players were required to deny him a second as the St Johnstone midfielder tried to scramble it home.

Right-back Mark Wilson thought he had levelled the match with a whipped free-kick the flew just wide of Alan Mannus' right-hand post.

Without the likes of Gauld, Stuart Armstrong and Nadir Ciftci, the visitors lacked venom in attack but Chris Erskine did threaten with a shot over the bar after surging 40 yards up field with a mazy run.

Saints continued to pose problems and after a Wotherspoon shot was only half cleared by Cierzniak, they worked the ball to May on the by-line. He skipped past Dillon with a clever drag back before burying the ball into the corner with a shot from an impossible angle.

It was a missile of a strike that literally succeeded in bursting the netting, meaning the game had to be held up for a moment as the McDiarmid ground staff were forced to carry out some running repairs.

United were at least creating the odd chance though and Robertson's low cross almost found its way into the Saints net when Wright had to stoop low to head clear with Brian Graham lurking behind.

Before their defeat in Paisley, the Tannadice side had racked up 22 goals as part of a six-game winning streak. But fearing a second loss on the bounce, McNamara called for Gary Mackay-Steven and Armstrong as Dow and Erskine were sacrificed.

However, even the Scotland squad members could not spark a cavalry charge and May swept home from Edwards' low cross in the 88th minute to complete a win that secures St Johnstone's slot in the top six.

Source: PA