St Johnstone extended their recent unbeaten run in the Scottish Premiership to three matches with a narrow 2-1 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice.
First-half goals from Stevie May and Melker Hallberg put the Saints in control, but the home team made it to a nervous finish when substitute Tony Watt pulled one back.
However, the Saints finished the match to take all three points and move up to eighth in the table, while United remain entrenched at the foot of the Premiership, still seeking their first league win of the season.
There was a choppy opening to the game as both sides tried to gain an advantage without creating significant chances.
Santos took the lead with the first real chance of the match.
Andy Considine played a ball from inside his own half behind the United defense with May running clear. He moved towards goal before calmly shooting over home goalkeeper Carljohan Eriksson.
The Tangerines finally created their own chance in the 24th minute when Jamie McGrath converted a corner from the right and Steven Fletcher sent a powerful header towards goal, but May was available to clear his own line.
United were struggling to make a big impression at St Johnstone and tempers boiled over just after the half-hour mark with United’s Aziz Behich and Saints’ Drey Wright booked once the dust had settled.
The home team should have tested Remi Matthews when McGrath hit an accurate free kick into the Saints box, but Ryan Edwards headed it.
Instead, it was Callum Davidson’s men who extended their lead in the 39th minute. May burst down the right before cutting the ball down for Hallberg to sweep past Eriksson.
The Saints came close to the third just before the break, but Wright’s low shot sailed over Eriksson’s right post.
United tried hard to get back into the game at the start of the second half, but the Saints continued to look comfortable.
Perth’s men came awfully close to scoring the third in the 57th minute when May fired a shot from outside the box that hit the home crossbar.
Matthews made a vital save in the 80th minute, fending off a Watt effort at his first post.
However, United finally scored three minutes later. Matthews initially saved a shot from Behich, but Watt was available to shoot the rebound, but it was too little, too late for the Tangerines.
What the managers said…
St. Johnstone boss Callum Davidson:
“We worked on things all week and I thought tactically we were really good. I don’t really like to mention players and single out players, but I thought Stevie May was outstanding today.”
“First of all, I thought his work rate was tremendous. He scores the goal, creates a goal and clears one off the line.
“He could have had another second half and that’s what I want to see from Stevie. We know he has that in him and we believe in Stevie.”
“I think his performance was outstanding and typified the end result and how we got there.
“The last few minutes were a bit nervous, but I thought we had managed to control it enough in the second half not to give away too many chances.
“We could have done better at the beginning of the second half, but then we had chances against it to make my life easier. But in the end, I’m delighted.”
Dundee United boss Liam Fox:
“Disappointed, really disappointed. It’s always tough when you’re 2-0 down at half time. The goals we conceded were bad. Some individual mistakes gave us a mountain to climb.”
“The league table probably tells us that’s why we’re sitting there, individual mistakes. The first goal, especially, is an over the top ball. We’ve got a lot to work on and improve quickly. That’s the plan.”
“We will let the dust settle, watch the game and be as positive as possible with the players.
“I thought we actually started well. I wish we were a little more ruthless with the shots on goal, more crosses in the box, give the fans something to cheer about and hopefully bring them with us.”