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Dundee United 0 St Mirren 0: Tangerines fail to secure play-off final lead to take to Paisley

Paul McMullan's shot is saved.
Paul McMullan's shot is saved.

There were nerves aplenty but no goals as Dundee United failed to secure a Premiership play-off final first-leg lead.

The Tangerines will travel to Paisley on Sunday all square with St Mirren so are still well in the running for a return to the top flight.

Their promotion dream is still alive but they now face an almighty challenge.

The Buddies will feel it is advantage to them after keeping United at bay in a tense affair played out before a bumper crowd.

United hoped it would be third time lucky as regards promotion, having been beaten by Livingston and Hamilton Accies in previous play-offs.

PREMIERSHIP PLAY-OFF: Dundee United v St Mirren in photos

They have to remain positive, though, and will definitely fancy themselves to score at the Simple Digital Arena.

The Tangerines were unchanged from the side that kicked off that impressive 3-0 semi-final second leg win over Inverness Caley Thistle on Friday.

For the Buddies, Gary McKenzie was back after recovering from a head knock, on-loan Rangers defender Lee Hodson joined him, while striker Cody Cooke started after scoring a hat-trick against Dundee as a substitute.

There was an impressive tangerine, white and black display in the Eddie Thompson Stand to greet the teams as they walked out to a packed stadium.

The near-10,000 United fans had reported for duty, now it was over to the players.

The Tangerines started well and threatened on five minutes with a good passage of play that was started by the tough-tackling Rachid Bouhenna in his own half.

The ball reached Paul McMullan just outside the St Mirren box and he found Osman Sow, who held it up before giving him it back. McMullan then played a slide-rule pass to Ian Harkes, whose shot on goal was blocked.

The visitors appealed for a penalty a minute later when Paul McGinn went down inside the United area but referee Bobby Madden wasn’t impressed.

Tannadice skipper Mark Reynolds had hearts in mouths on 15 minutres when he nodded a Buddies’ freekick at his own keeper Benjamin Siegrist, who was well positioned to save.

The first booking of the game was certainly deserved as Ryan Flynn aimed at high boot at Harkes’ head, which required a bandage.

Danger man McMullan raced half the length of the pitch on 21 minutes and got his shot in only for goalie Vaclav Hladky to save with his feet.

McMullan and Harkes both had shots blocked inside a busy St Mirren box as the Tangerines continued to look the better team.

On 34 minutes, McMullan works his magic again on the right and pokes a cross in front of goal but Nicky Clark can’t reach it.

United let Kyle McAllister run at them on 39 minutes but, thankfully for the defence, his low shot sailed past the far post.

Sow’s cross then almost reached Clark and McMullan for United then Siegrist rode to the home team’s rescue with a diving save to keep out a McAllister strike.

A feisty first half finished with a freekick from Bouhenna that was held by Hladky.

The Tangerines made a shaky start to the second period, with Siegrist quickly called on to keep out a toe-poke from Kyle Magennis.

United had to get up the park and they looked to be doing so through Pawlett on 51 minutes before he was stopped in his tracks by Stephen McGinn.

Still, the hosts had woken up and Clark’s pass to Pawlett at the front post had the Buddies worried then McMullan drilled a ball across the face of goal on 55 minutes that deserved to have a striker on the end of it but didn’t.

The home team made a switch on 59 minutes and it was a popular one with the fans as Pavol Safronko replaced Sow.

United defender Mark Connolly, up for a corner, had his arm pulled inside the box but ref Madden was again unconvinced.

Safranko’s arrival had given the Tangerines some impetus and a corner on 62 minutes was met by Connolly, nodded goalwards by Pawlett and then hooked off the line by Saints’ Ryan Flynn.

United’s second sub was Sam Stanton, who replaced Clark with 68 minutes on the clock, then the third, Calum Booth, arrived on 73 minutes to take the injured Pawlett’s place.

It was tense stuff as the game entered its final phase, with both sides desperate to avoid losing a goal.

Bouhenna was booked for afoul on Magennis on 86 minutes before United missed a late, great chance.

As the game crept into stoppage-time, the ball was swung over from the left by Jamie Robson and Safranko tried his best to turn it in but just failed.

That left the Tannadice men without a lead to take west with them but they should not be too downhearted either.

They won their in the Scottish Cup earlier this season and, of course, beat a decent Inverness side on the road in the semi.

It is all still to play for.

Attendance: 11,062.

Dundee United: Siegrist, McMullan, Sow (Safranko 59), Clark (Stanton 68), Robson, Bouhenna, Reynolds, Watson, Harkes, Pawlett (Booth 73), Connolly. Subs not used: Laidlaw, Frans, M. Smith, C. Smith.

St Mirren: Hladky, P. McGinn, S. McGinn, MacKenzie, Magennis, Flynn, Baird, Popescu, Cooke, Hodson, McAllister. Subs not used: Holmes, Muzek, Nazon, Mullen, MacPherson, Ferdinand, Erhahon.

Referee: Bobby Madden.

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