It wasn't supposed to turn out this way; two of Scottish football's most attractive sides embroiled in an ill-tempered second half which led to both managers being ordered to the stand by referee Crawford Allan.

In a compelling encounter, it was Stevie May's solitary strike, aided by a blunder from Radoslaw Cierzniak, the Dundee United goalkeeper, which ultimately lifted St Johnstone into sixth place in the SPFL Premiership but a trip by Tim Clancy on Ryan Gauld as the diminutive Tannadice midfielder raced in on goal triggered aggravation on and off the pitch as Jackie McNamara and Tommy Wright, the respective managers, became engaged in heated conversation near the dugouts.

"Jackie said some insulting things about my team," Wright said. "He was disrespectful and I am not going to stand for that."

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McNamara did not appear for the post-match news conference but was represented by his assistant, Simon Donnelly, who complained that Farid El Alagui should have been awarded a penalty kick when bundled over in the area by Michael O'Halloran, the St Johnstone striker, but had been told by the referee that it was a fair, shoulder-to-shoulder challenge.

On the touchline incident, Donnelly said: "It was just a heated spat. It happens all the time. I didn't think it merited red cards for the managers. The game wasn't as free flowing as we would have liked, but when you come up against a team like St Johnstone you have to compete."

Wright, wary of allowing McNamara's side to indulge in their free-flowing football, had his players drilled on making life difficult for United's defenders and their early pressure almost paid off when a long ball forward hit the boot of Gavin Gunning, the United centre-back. The ball fell for May, but his strike was beaten away by Cierzniak.

The home side struggled to find their ryhthm and it took until the 24th minute before they threatened: Gary Mackay-Steven's shot turned round for a corner by Gary Miller at the near post. It was a move which boosted United, but the second half was only two minutes old when a moment of genius from May followed by a catastrophic attempt by Cierzniak to stop his 22-yard thunderbolt broke the deadlock. The Slovakian goalkeeper appeared to collect the shot with ease but the ball spun loose and slipped behind him and into the net.

Moments later, Alan Mannus saved from Ryan Dow. It just wasn't going to be United's night.