ST MIRREN'S fourth successive league defeat leaves new manager Tommy Craig with big problems at the end of a week when Derek Adams was dismissed by Ross County for the same dismal sequence of results.
It was the same story for Craig's side, who missed several good chances again in this match.
While Craig insists it's a case of his players holding their nerve, the home supporters were less charitable, venting their frustration at the club's worst start to a league campaign since 1920. In the end, St Mirren lost conclusively to a United side who only started to play convincingly themselves after Jaroslaw Fojut put them two ahead midway through the second half.
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United remain in third place, with four wins from their opening five games, while only the continuing haplessness of County keeps Saints off the foot of the table.
"Quite simply, if you don't put the ball in the net you're going to find yourself in the position we are in," Craig lamented. "Until we start doing that we are going to be disappointed after each game, which we don't want.
"I've got the squad that I want and other than scoring a goal they are giving me everything. I feel in two of the games we've played and an hour of this one we were by far the better team, but you can't miss the chances we have and not suffer."
Jackie McNamara wasn't happy with his own side's performance, saying his players never achieved the fluency he was looking for. "The scoreline flattered us, to be honest," he said. "We scored at the right time and Jaroslaw with the second goal settled it down and knocked the stuffing out of St Mirren a little bit. The third goal was a fantastic finish from young Blair Spittal and I'm delighted for him."
Both sides had to contend with a strong, gusting wind, but the opening 10 minutes saw more chances created than the remaining 35 of the first half. United started the stronger, and very nearly went ahead after just four minutes.
For the second time in this short period the St Mirren defence was left hopelessly exposed when Nadir Ciftci found Gary Mackay-Steven unmarked in the box. His low curling shot with the inside of the boot hit the base of the far post.
Saints upped their game with a very decent double effort. Kenny McLean, from the right, provided the impetus for both, first with a cross which saw Radoslaw Cierzniak make a fine save from John McGinn's header and from McLean's subsequent corner Jason Naismith's header flashed just wide of the far post.
The opening two minutes of the second half clearly encapsulated St Mirren's problems. Craig's side attacked from the restart, and Keith Watson had to come to United's rescue, clearing off the line from McLean. Then McGinn fired over the bar, but within seconds they were a goal down. A quick break upfield saw the ball fed by Ciftci to Chris Erskine and he strode through the middle before slipping the ball past Marian Kello from just inside the box.
The home crowd, previously supportive, became increasingly irate at their side's inadequacies in front of goal as they stayed on the front foot groping for an equaliser. Left-back Jeroen Tesselaar showed the players in front of him how to do it with a couple of credible attempts, the second after a fine run by Ross Caldwell, but the jeers were being ramped up when United scored their second.
It was a simple goal scored in front of the noisy visiting support. Mackay-Steven, in his last act before being substituted, took a corner from the right and it was met with a resounding header by Fojut.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of the home side, and 10 minutes from time it required an inspired save from Kello, followed by a scramble in the box, to deny Paul Paton a third goal. That duly arrived five minutes from time, courtesy of a terrific strike by substitute Spittal to seal an increasingly uncomfortable afternoon for the home side.