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Dundee United 2 St Mirren 1: Managerless Tangerines move joint top thanks to crucial win

Mark Durnan opens the scoring for Dundee United.
Mark Durnan opens the scoring for Dundee United.

Dundee United caretaker coach Laurie Ellis brought the curtain down on his successful spell in charge with a crucial win over St Mirren.

The managerless Tangerines drew level with the league-leading Buddies on 23 points at the top of the Championship thanks to this vital victory.

The result also allowed Ellis to make way for the new man – whenever he is finally appointed – with his head held high and boasting a 100% record, having also beaten Dumbarton the previous weekend.

Central defender Mark Durnan put United 1-0 up after just 11 minutes, heading a Scott Fraser freekick into the net, before Sam Stanton grabbed their second with low strike on 79 minutes.

Adam Eckersley scored in stoppage-time for the Paisley men but it was almost a footnote.

Ellis had named an unchanged team for this second match in charge of the Tangerines.

On five minutes, United striker Scott McDonald had the first attempt at goal when he shot low into the arms of keeper Craig Samson following a Fraser corner.

Just two minutes later, Matty Smith broke goalwards for the Tangerines and, instead of having a go himself, squared to Fraser. However, the ball got caught up in the midfielder’s feet just yards out and the chance was lost.

Having been the better team, it was not a surprise when the hosts took the lead on 11 minutes.

McDonald was awarded a freekick when he was chopped down by Stephen McGinn out on the right. Fraser took the setpiece left-footed and floated it to Durnan, who glanced home a header from around the penalty spot that sneaked inside the far post.

On 21 minutes, it was the Buddies’ turn to look dangerous but United goalie Harry Lewis did well to gather Kyle Magennis’s shot.

Billy King sent a low shot well wide on 27 minutes after Tam Scobbie had found him with a header, then one of the biggest cheers of the day went up from the home support when captain Willo Flood won a series of tenacious tackles.

Ex-United loan man Cammy Smith got into a great position for the visitors on 40 minutes but pulled his shot well wide of goal then, just seconds later, the same player found the side-netting at St Mirren enjoyed a decent spell.

Just two minutes before the break, a sweeping move from the Tangerines saw Flood play the ball square to Fraser in space and his shot wasn’t too far over the bar.

St Mirren looked in the mood after the break as United looked in danger of sitting too deep.

With 56 minutes on the clock, a Fraser pass sent King away up the right and he cut in before firing in a cross-shot that had to be pushed away by keeper Samson.

Fraser pounced on a stray pass from  Lewis Morgan and raced up the park. He pulled the trigger from inside the box but Samson did well to make the save.

The Buddies were looking really threatening, though, and they boosted their attack on 63 minutes when former Dundee frontman John Sutton came on for Kyle Magennis.

On 66 minutes, King did well to crate space for himself up the left and his cutback pinged about the box until McDonald had a low strike blocked.

United brought on Fraser Fyvie for Smith on 69 minutes and the former Hibs and Aberdeen player picked up a booking within a minute.

Havign weathered the strom after the restart, the hosts were looking for a second and broke forward on 75 minutes through Stanton.  The on-loan Hibs man played in Fraser, who cut inside to his left foot but the strike was blocked by Jack Baird.

The Tangerines had the ball in the net just a minute later when Tam Scobbie slid the ball home at the back post off a Fraser ball but the flag was up for offside.

Just seconds after that, Fraser did well again to find Stanton and the midfielder was unlucky to see Samson save his shot.

This was good stuff from United and, once again, it wasn’t a shock when they got a second goal on 79 minutes.

Sub Fyvie picked out Fraser at the far post with a great cross from the left and the playmaker controlled the ball before setting up Stanton to smash a low shot past Samson.

In injury-time, United sub James Keatings was picked out by a Flood pass and his shot from just outside the box was deflected just inches past the post.

The visitors grabbed a consolation goal with the last kick of the game when Eckersley scored with a dipping shot from 25 yards but this was United’s day.

Attendance: 6,836.

Dundee United: Lewis, Murdoch, Scobbie, Durnan, McDonald (Keatings 84), Fraser, King, Stanton, Flood, Robson, M. Smith (Fyvie 69). Subs not used: Deniz, McMullan, N’Koyi, Edjenguele, Allardice.

St Mirren: Samson, McGinn, Magennis (Sutton 63), Morgan, C. Smith, Baird, McShane, Reilly (Hilson 72), L. Smith, McCart, Eckersley. Subs not used: Ross Stewart, Demetriou, Buchanan, MacPherson, Ross Stewart.

Referee: Greg Aitken.