The scoreline was a bit flattering to us but it was a cracking game and a much needed win. United were the form team going into this but we got them rattled early on, thanks to Jim Goodwin, scored first and then, thanks to Marian Kello, resisted what they had to throw at us. We might have rode our luck a bit, but we took our chances and United didn't.
As expected, we brought John McGinn and Marc McAusland back in for Gary Harkins and Lee Mair. United went with Nadir Ciftci up front and the attack minded Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay-Steven and Scottish Messi Ryan Gauld in behind.
The re-arranged game against Ross County in the middle of November was the last time we scored in the league but that run finally came to an end today. After Jason Naismith had shot not far wide, Paul McGowan's cross was flicked on by Conor Newton before Steven Thompson brilliantly brought it down, turned and dispatched it past Radoslaw Cierzniak. Great stuff from everyone involved and there was another fine piece of skill at the other end as Kello terrifically kept out Stuart Armstrong's close range header from a Keith Watson cross, the rebound hitting Armstrong and going behind.
Despite Cierzniak saving a tame McGowan header shortly after Goodwin had been booked, Kello was the busier goalie and kept out efforts from Rankin and Ciftci. Paul Paton was next up before Newton was ridiculously booked for an innocuous challenge. And then, after being under the cosh, we doubled our lead. McGowan found McGinn and one United defender was so in awe at being in his presence he fell to the ground. The youngster dummied the next one and then slotted past Cierzniak for a fine goal and we had a bit of insurance.
For about 60 seconds anyway. Our defence was a bit all over the place but both Armstrong and Ciftci looked rather offside in the build-up. The flag stayed down and Ciftci forced the ball home, Kello not able to keep it out (and he got hurt into the bargain) while neither McAusland or McGregor could clear it in time. Still, we didn't buckle and both Newton and Thompson had chances before Goodwin was hooked and replaced by van Zanten as half-time approached. With the away fans howling every time he made a tackle it was the right move as ref Bobby Madden looked desperate to send him off. The cheering from the home fans was rather amusing and no doubt only increased the seethe.
There was another sub at the break with Danny Grainger coming on for McLean, who'd presumably picked up an injury. Kello had made some great saves in the first half and made another when he reacted brilliantly to turn Rankin's fierce shot over. Madden, who'd had a shocker when we drew with Celtic in March, booked McGinn for a "tackle" on Paton when if anyone had been fouled it was our man. It was pretty much one way traffic towards our goal and we switched off to allow Mackay-Steven to stop rolling about long enough to get onto a ball over the top. He tried to lob Kello but it was woeful and the keeper tipped it away. Even then United should still have scored as we defended poorly before eventually hacking it away.
United were still by the far the better side and Ciftci saw his shot brilliantly blocked by Kello. However, the game was about to take a dramatic twist. After all the ridiculous whining and moaning from the United camp about our tackling and aggressive play, it was most amusing to see Watson shown a straight red for clattering Kelly. To me it looked a straight red, especially when you consider the soft bookings we'd had. For once we made our extra man count and almost immediately we doubled our lead. McGinn did brilliantly to win himself a bit of time and played a fantastic pass through to Naismith, who steadied himself before tucking away his first ever goal. He took it well considering he's a defender and hadn't scored before, although he has been coming close recently.
Just to rub salt into United's wounds, we added a fantastic fourth after Robertson went close to pulling one back. A terrific move involving Thompson, McGowan, Harkins (on for Kelly), McGinn and Grainger (hope I've not missed anyone out!) saw the latter put a perfect cross into the box. Harkins was inches away from heading it in, but worry not as Thompson was next in line and smashed it past Cierzniak to complete one of the shocks of the season.
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