Match ends, Dundee United 2, St. Johnstone 0.
- Dundee United go two points clear at top
- Chris Erskine scores after returning to starting line-up
- United now unbeaten in six games
- St Johnstone fail to record fifth straight win over United
Dundee United went clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a workmanlike win over St Johnstone.
United opened the scoring on the counter-attack, with Chris Erskine slotting the ball past Alan Mannus after being set up by Nadir Ciftci.
A Michael O'Halloran effort came off a post after the break as St Johnstone went close.
But United made the points safe when Paul Paton fired high into the net after being set up by Keith Watson.
The Tannadice outfit had started the day level on points with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, but the Highland side's defeat in Aberdeen leaves United two points clear of Hamilton Academical at the summit of the Premiership.
And victory stretched the Terrors' unbeaten run to six games, while ending Saints' run of four victories over the hosts without conceding a goal.
For the first meeting between the sides since last season's Scottish Cup final - a game which St Johnstone won 2-0 at Celtic Park in May - visiting manager Tommy Wright was forced into a late change when midfielder Chris Millar picked up an injury during the warm-up.
Murray Davidson, who was initially left out after playing in the midweek League Cup win over Kilmarnock, was restored instead.
There was also no place for the scorer of the winning goal in that tie, Brian Graham, who was ineligible to play against his parent club.
Yet it was Jackie McNamara's changes that proved more crucial in the opening half. The United manager opted to include Erskine and Mario Bilate ahead of Stuart Armstrong and Blair Spittal and it was the former Partick Thistle player who opened the scoring after 23 minutes.
From a St Johnstone corner, United goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak gathered and threw the ball out for his side to break. Ciftci fed Erskine on the right side of Saints' penalty box and the midfielder fired in a composed finish.
United began brightly after the restart, with Ciftci forcing Mannus to race from goal to clear as he raced in on the Saints goalkeeper. Then Bilate fired in a lobbed effort that flew just over the Saints bar.
Saints were almost level on the hour mark when O'Halloran reacted quickly when the ball evaded United defender Callum Morris in the six-yard box, but the woodwork denied the striker.
However, United added a second in the 72nd minute when Ciftci laid the ball to the right for Watson on the overlap and the defender's low cross was fired home from eight yards by the well-placed Paton.
- 14MorrisBooked at 90mins
- 17ErskineSubstituted forMackay-Stevenat 75'minutes
- 18DowSubstituted forSpittalat 78'minutes
- 7CiftciBooked at 67mins
- 19BilateSubstituted forArmstrongat 62'minutes
- 8McDonaldSubstituted forLappinat 54'minutes
- 22CroftSubstituted forMorganat 54'minutes
- 10WotherspoonBooked at 80mins
- Bobby Madden
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Dundee United 2, St. Johnstone 0.
Foul by Paul Paton (Dundee United).
Liam Caddis (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Jaroslaw Fojut.
Callum Morris (Dundee United) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Callum Morris (Dundee United).
Michael O'Halloran (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Simon Lappin (St. Johnstone) left footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right.
Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Murray Davidson.
David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone) is shown the yellow card.
Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone).
Substitution, Dundee United. Blair Spittal replaces Ryan Dow.
Nadir Ciftci (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Steven Anderson (St. Johnstone).
Attempt missed. Simon Lappin (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high.
Substitution, Dundee United. Gary Mackay-Steven replaces Chris Erskine.
Corner, Dundee United. Conceded by Frazer Wright.
Foul by Chris Erskine (Dundee United).