Dundee United stage a late fightback to earn draw at St Johnstone

Dundee United stage a late fightback to earn draw at St JohnstoneIf Scottish football teams cannot compete reasonably with foreign opposition, St Johnstone and Dundee United did plenty to suggest they can provide suitable levels of entertainment when playing each other.

Merely the latest dismal week for Scottish Premier League clubs in Europe proved that, unfortunately, tales of the game's relative demise north of the border have not been greatly exaggerated. The all too familiar ring of an inquest is filling every airwave.

Concentration, then, will remain on the domestic scene for the time being; this engaging fixture proved all is not lost where that is concerned. Prophets of doom should have headed for Perth.

McDiarmid Park hosted well-coached teams, each attempting to play the kind of enterprising football which should be encouraged. Six goals highlighted the standard of what was on offer, with a share of two points only reasonable.

St Johnstone should have claimed bragging rights over their Tayside neighbours. Derek McInnes's team led 3-1 with 10 minutes remaining, only for United to launch a spirited and impressive comeback. The visitors finished the game as the stronger side.

St Johnstone have gained a reputation as being low scorers. The claiming of six goals in their last two outings contradicts that; defensive frailty was the issue for McInnes here.

United have not yet recovered from the summer departures of David Goodwillie, Morgaro Gomis, Craig Conway and Prince Buaben; that quartet's earlier influence in Peter Houston's squad hardly renders that a surprise. Still, the manager, Peter Houston, can apparently count on a strong mindset from the players still at his disposal.

United could legitimately have wondered how they found themselves two goals behind at the interval. Houston believed the match officials had played their part.

Houston took to the field at half-time to begin a one-sided chat with the referee, Charlie Richmond. Not only did the United manager believe the penalty which allowed St Johnstone to restore parity was soft but that the free-kick from which the hosts claimed a second was awarded in error, as well.

Yet, in the early stages, Houston only had his team's profligacy to rue. United took the lead with their first attack of the afternoon, Barry Douglas slamming home an angled shot when played in by Johnny Russell, and threatened to close the game out pretty swiftly.

Lauri Dalla Valle wasted the best opportunity of the visitors' dominant spell, the Fulham loanee shooting over the crossbar from eight yards out. When Callum Davidson limped from the field, this hardly looked like the hosts' day.

Richmond's penalty award sparked them into life. The official was not quick in pointing to the spot as David Robertson, a former United player who was jeered by the visiting support thereafter, tumbled when challenged by Russell. Sandaza, another who used to ply his trade at Tannadice, did the rest from 12 yards.

St Johnstone's next goal was more spectacular. Liam Craig brilliantly shot low past Dusan Pernis from 20 yards after a well-worked free-kick routine. Craig's left foot is an underappreciated weapon.

Sandaza hustled Garry Kenneth off the ball and supplied a cool finish to allow the Perth side a two-goal margin at the break. United, as Houston would know only too well, actually had not done much wrong.

Cillian Sheridan's wasted chance at the beginning of the second period did not seem significant at the time, but what followed proved otherwise.

Just when United seemed to be running short of ideas, their substitute Gary Mackay-Steven bundled home at close range after Dalla Valle's cutback. Another replacement, Danny Swanson, supplied the corner from which Gavin Gunning's header levelled the scores in emphasising St Johnstone's sense of panic.

Peter Enckelman clawed away a fierce Dalla Valle effort as United sought to complete a stunning turnaround. A winner would have been harsh on St Johnstone, who played their part in a timely, eye-catching affair.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray at McDiarmid Park, for The Observer on Saturday 27th August 2011 18.10 Europe/London

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