Dundee Utd 1-1 St Johnstone: Liam Craig earns a point for 10-man visitors
Liam Craig thundered in a fantastic equaliser as 10-man St Johnstone hit back to hold Dundee United on their Scottish Premiership return.
United dominated the first half, buoyed by Nicky Clark’s penalty, and looked favourites when Michael O’Halloran was sent off before the interval.
However, Craig profited from an awkward clearance to smash home a volley.
The depleted visitors were then the better side, with David Wotherspoon and Danny McNamara denied by good saves.
The hosts found a late second wind but neither side could find a winner in a frantic last few moments.
United have been absent from the top flight for five years and looked in a hurry to make up for lost time, playing with great energy in midfield while wing-backs Liam Smith and Jamie Robson galloped forward.
A shot from Smith was blocked by a raised arm and Clark stepped up to covert the spot-kick on six minutes.
Robson had a close-range shot blocked by Elliot Parish and the visiting keeper had to smother a shot from Peter Pawlett, who was linking well with forwards Clark and Lawrence Shankland.
Wotherspoon hammered a shot narrowly wide for St Johnstone, while Callum Hendry took one touch too many after some fine footwork, allowing Robson to get in a vital touch.
A poor first half for the visitors ended on a sour note with O’Halloran late in a challenge on Calum Butcher to pick up his second caution.
Craig’s goal arrived out of the blue, with Mark Connolly’s attempted interception looping up perfectly for the midfielder to crack in from 15 yards.
Suddenly, the depleted visitors were on top and Benjamin Siegrist was the busier goalkeeper, making two good stops.
Man of the match – Jamie Robson
What did we learn?
Shankland was full of nice touches in the opening 45 minutes but the prolific striker, with a hatful of Championship goals over the past three seasons, only got two meaningful sights of goal.
His first attempt was blocked and, early in the second half with the score at 1-0, he twisted Liam Gordon one way then the other before shooting over the top.
The St Johnstone defence was much improved after the break and Shankland was kept quiet before setting up Pawlett with a great chance to score late on, with McNamara sliding in to make the best tackle of the day in front of goal.
McNamara had an eye-catching debut for the visitors, the on-loan Millwall full-back improving as he adapted to the pace of the game, while Wotherspoon, who led the attacking statistics with four shots, was a big factor in the comeback.
Both managers will be happy with one half and fuming with the other.
What did they say?
Dundee United manager Micky Mellon: “It’ll be a continual learning process, they’ve come up a new level now as the champions last year. They’ll get different questions now against stronger teams and we’ll have to get used those lessons very, very quickly.”
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: “Once we got a man sent off we were tremendous. I would have been really disappointed if we hadn’t taken anything from the game.”
St Johnstone are at home to Aberdeen next Saturday, with Dundee United travelling to Motherwell on the same day.