United are left counting cost of ‘soft’ penalty

By Neil Robertson AT TANNADICE



dmg media (UK)



MARK O’HARA’S controversial penalty secured a share of the spoils for St Mirren against Dundee United at Tannadice. The relegation-haunted hosts took an early lead with a superbly welltaken goal from Steven Fletcher. However, the Buddies equalised after the break thanks to their skipper’s spot-kick. Referee Craig Napier had awarded the penalty when St Mirren striker Curtis Main went down under a challenge from home defender Loick Ayina. That decision was rubber-stamped by VAR but United boss Jim Goodwin insisted there was minimal contact and his side had two points snatched from their grasp. The 41-year-old said: ‘The big frustration for me comes from the equaliser. ‘The penalty is so soft and I am finding it very hard to bite my tongue, especially with the benefit of VAR. It is so soft. I have seen a couple of angles and I can’t see any contact. My centre-half has hardly touched the St Mirren centre-forward. ‘To lose two points to that penalty award is a bitter pill to swallow. I feel two points have been snatched away from us. ‘We are down there fighting for our lives and those two points would have been massive for us.’ United made a dream start, opening the scoring in just the third minute when Fletcher latched on to a headed clearance from St Mirren defender Richard Taylor, flicking the ball up to volley home from the edge of the box past Buddies keeper Trevor Carson. The hosts’ tails were up and Aziz Behich then tried his luck with an audacious 25-yard shot that flew just past Carson’s left-hand post. St Mirren were struggling to recover from going a goal behind so early, failing to put any pressure on the home goal. That finally changed in the 24th minute when Main found space for himself in the United box but his shot flew straight at home goalkeeper Mark Birighitti, who easily gathered. That sparked a sustained period of pressure for the Buddies but they couldn’t create any clear-cut opportunities. Instead, it was the hosts who were presented with an opening when Jamie McGrath swung a corner in from the right with the ball falling for Fletcher, but the former Scotland striker could only send his close-range shot over the bar. The Buddies were the first to threaten after the break in the 56th minute when Greg Kiltie hit a cross from the right to the on-rushing O’Hara but the St Mirren captain’s goalbound shot was blocked by Ryan Edwards. The visitors did have the ball in the back of the net shortly after but Taylor’s headed effort was ruled out for offside, a decision confirmed by VAR. However, St Mirren equalised in the 73rd minute. Main went down in the United box under a challenge from Ayina with referee Napier pointing to the spot. That decision was confirmed by the Video Assistant Referee, with O’Hara stepping up to hit the penalty straight down the middle past the diving Birighitti. Deep in stoppage-time, home substitute Kai Fotheringham had a chance for glory but his shot hit the post with United then having another great opportunity with Carson palming away a Mathew Cudjoe shot and Ilmari Niskanen smashing the rebound into the stand. St Mirren boss Stephen Robinson insisted his side deserved at least a draw. The 48-year-old said: ‘It’s fine margins in football but anyone who says we didn’t deserve a point today, I’m not too sure. We deserved at least a point and should have gone on to win the game.’