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Added spice on the menu at Tannadice but Darren McGregor hopes to shovel salt into open wounds

DUNDEE United still bear the bruises from that Boxing Day battering in Paisley.

The Tannadice side haven't won since their 4-1 mauling by St Mirren in the midst of the festive period, and the wounds will be fresher than ever when the two sides are pitched into battle in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round today. Jim Goodwin, in particular, can fully expect a rather frosty reception from the Tayside crowd in recognition of the total recall surounding his forearm smash on Stuart Armstrong, which went unpunished at the time but subsequently led to a wrangle between the two clubs over the use of video evidence.

Darren McGregor, who was on the pitch that afternoon, reckons his captain is more sinned against than sinner, and will handle anything which comes his way. "Maybe there will be a bit of added spice because of what happened in the last match," said McGregor. "Their fans will let Jim know they are not happy with him, but he's big enough to take that on the chin and it won't faze him at all. He'll go out and play his normal game."

Love him or loathe him, Goodwin is nevertheless an integral part of the St Mirren machine. "Every fan will say what they like about him, but I think most fans would like a Goodwin-type player in their team," McGregor said. "He's a wholehearted player, a great captain and leader. He's not a nasty player at all. He goes in strong, but I've never seen him go out to hurt anyone.

"I'd like to think referees will do their jobs regardless of what has been in the papers," he added. "But I'm sure it has been discussed in dressing rooms that players will target Jim because of the way he goes into tackles. I've seen games where there have been five or six fouls given against him and there have only been one or two genuine ones."

The muscularity and effectiveness of St Mirren's performance on Boxing Day was partially born from fear. The first meeting between these sides this season ended in a 4-0 win at Tannadice, an ever-present reminder of what can go wrong if defensive assignments aren't taken care of.

"The first game was probably one of the biggest doings I've had as a professional football player," said McGregor. "It sticks right in the front of my mind. We didn't want a repeat result of the first time we met this season, we weren't going to allow that to happen again. But to be fair, we got a bit of luck as well."

John McGinn, who scored that day in December, is unavailable due to suspension, which means lining up alongside Goodwin in the engine room is likely to be Eric Djemba Djemba, the Cameroonian midfielder, once signed for £3.5 million by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United, who pitched up in Paisley this week.

The move took McGregor by surprise, but he cannot fail to be impressed by the pedigree of his new dressing room neighbour, who appears to have a peg for each name.

"The gaffer kept that one quiet, and then I got a few texts saying Djemba Djemba and I thought 'I recognise that guy's name' and it turns out he is Man United and all the rest of it," said McGregor. "He must have had something about him and I think he was on £75,000-a-month or something. I couldn't imagine St Mirren paying that and if they are, I will be asking for a wage rise! He's sitting next to me in the changing room, so I introduced myself," he added. "Normally, it's one peg each and he had two, but I said 'you can have two pegs'."

Whether United will take him down a peg or two today remains to be seen, but McGregor has his own reasons to treasure an extended cup run. He missed the club's entire League Cup heroics last season due to the second cruciate ligament injury of his career, and wants the chance to write some success of his own.

"It was great that they made the final and I was happy for the boys, but you are not part of it," said the central defender. "You want to contribute and when you are not contributing when they bring home the bacon then it's difficult to bask in the glory.

"I was in the stand watching. It was a great day, but I was training the next day with the Under-19s so I couldn't even enjoy the festivities. It's just something that happened and I have been given a second opportunity now."

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