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Dundee United vs St Johnstone verdict: Player ratings, star man and key moments as Mark Birighitti howler piles pressure on Liam Fox

May celebrates the winner. Image: SNS
May celebrates the winner. Image: SNS

A Mark Birighitti blunder handed St Johnstone a 2-1 victory over Dundee United as the pressure mounts on Tannadice head coach Liam Fox.

Stevie May opened the scoring with a superb volley, only for Dylan Levitt to level deep into the second half.

However, May would have the final word, closing down Birighitti as the Australian keeper dallied before TACKLING the ball into the net; a dire error.

A stony faced Mark Ogren. Image: SNS

The result sees United remain rooted to the foot of the Premiership and, in front of watching owner Mark Ogren, there were calls for both sporting director Tony Asghar and Fox to leave.

St Johnstone are now 10 points clear of their Tayside foes.

Key moments

The pre-match festivities on ‘Legends Day’ saw a host of icons from United’s 1983 Premier Division-winning team presented to the crowd, with captain of that side, Paul Hegarty, clutching the storied silverware.

The legends of 1983. Image: SNS

Seeking to build on that buoyant atmosphere, the Tangerines started well. A slick passing move saw Kai Fotheringham release Aziz Behich, but Remi Matthews made a smart low save to deny the full-back.

Cammy MacPherson warmed the palms of Birighitti with a low drive from 20 yards as the Saintees bared their teeth for the first time.

While United answered Fox’s call for personality and attacking impetus, efforts were often speculative. Levitt, Steven Fletcher, Liam Smith and Arnaud Djoum all fired off target from distance.

The visitors, by contrast, took their big opportunity in clinical fashion.

Dan Phillips won possession in the heart of midfield, slipping a pass to Nicky Clark before the ex-United man found Melker Hallberg on the wing.

Hallberg’s delivery was perfect for May to lash a first-time volley beyond Birighitti from the edge of the box. The Saints striker was afforded far too much space, while the finish wasn’t exactly in the corner; prompting questions of the Aussie keeper.

Stevie May celebrates. Image: SNS

Fotheringham was doing himself justice on his first United start of the season and, as the second period began, he skinned Alex Mitchell and produced a threatening delivery across the face of goal. But the excellent Phillips was on hand to hook the ball off the line.

Clark should have done better when a slick Saints counter-attack afforded him the opportunity to make the game safe, but he fired straight down the throat of Birighitti.

And United looked on course to claim a precious point when Levitt curled home a sumptuous leveller with 10 minutes still to play, beating Matthews from 25 yards.

Birighitti was substituted clutching his shoulder after his moment of madness. Image: SNS

However, parity lasted just 90 seconds as Birighitti’s astonishing blunder allowed May to grab the winner.

United’s star man: Kai Fotheringham

The waspish forward grasped his big chance.

As the pressure mounted and the situation became stark, he never once shirked the challenge or hid.

Kai Fotheringham had a positive afternoon. Image: SNS

He demanded the ball, ran at Saints players and created several moments of danger.

Saints’ star man: Dan Phillips

The Trinidad and Tobago international never has a bad game these days.

In fact, he never has one bordering on average either.

As usual, Cammy MacPherson was also impressive again in central midfield but Phillips was the star turn at Tannadice.

He played a decisive part in the first May goal, cleared a shot off the line, made an incisive run that almost produced a Saints’ second and barely wasted a pass.

Player ratings

Dundee United: Birighitti 4 (Newman 83); Smith 5, Ayina 7, Mulgrew 6, Behich 6; Djoum 6, Levitt 7, Sibbald 6; Fotheringham 7 (Cudjoe 90), Fletcher 6, McGrath 5 (MacLeod 75, 3).

St Johnstone: Matthews 7; Brown 7, Mitchel 6, Gordon 7, May 7 (Rudden 3), Wright 6, MacPherson 8, Montgomery 7, Hallberg 7 (Carey 3), Phillips 8, Clark 6 (McLennan 3).

Managers under the microscope

Liam Fox

Fox’s team was that of a man who knew something had to change.

Fotheringham, only recalled from a loan spell with Stirling Albion on deadline day, was brought into the starting line-up. The young forward notched a 17 combined goals and assists with the Binos.

There was also a switch to 4-3-3 from Fox — the first time United had lined up with a back-four since losing 3-0 at home to St Mirren on August 20.

The embattled Fox. Image: SNS

But for all United enjoyed plenty of possession — 66% — and had 11 corners, clear-cut chances were few and far between. The Tangerines boasted just four shots on target.

Nevertheless, Fox could do nothing about the moment of madness which cost United what would have been, given results around them in the league, a valuable draw.

Callum Davidson

No Andy Considine was the Perth boss’s big problem and it wasn’t a surprise to see him revert to a back three to find the best way to deal with it.

James Brown was the replacement at left-sided centre-half.

There were times when Saints sat too deep — at the start of the game and before United’s equaliser — and Fletcher was a real handful throughout the contest.

But they defended their penalty box superbly, winning header after header, which became the name of the game in the second half.