A LOT can happen in football in nine months. Only last May, St Mirren were celebrating promotion to the Premiership while Dundee United were left cursing their failure to join them via the play-offs.

On this evidence, the teams won’t be in the same division next season either. Both rolled the dice in January by making major changes to their squads but it is United, again pushing for promotion out of the Championship, who have settled much quicker. They were well deserving of their victory on Saturday thanks to first-half goals from Pavol Safranko and Nicky Clark that made Duckens Nazon’s 77th minute response a mere consolation.

Cammy Smith was one of 11 new players to move to Tannadice as part of manager Robbie Neilson’s winter rebuild, and believes the calibre of signing has helped this new-look United hit the ground running.

“The manager has done his research and brought in boys who have played in Scotland before,” said the forward back at Tannadice for a second spell. “He has brought in some real leaders which helps.

“We have a lot of experienced guys and some younger guys, so there is a real mix there. He wants us to gel off the park too, and we are working on that. We have guys who have won things in their career and hopefully that can stand us in good stead. The guys who he has brought in will lift the level of the squad.”

St Mirren must wish they could say the same. Budgetary restraints meant Oran Kearney had to look beyond the tried and trusted to augment his squad, and the new players are taking their time to make an impact. They could have no complaints about being knocked out the cup, the only plus point that it now allows them to concentrate on avoiding relegation.

“The boys aren’t happy because everyone wants to be in the cup but you’ve got to take the positives from it,” said defender Jack Baird. “This will let us concentrate on the 14 cup finals we still have to face in the league.”

There was one red card shown by referee Willie Collum to United’s Calum Butcher but there could easily have been a second when St Mirren’s Paul McGinn smashed into Smith.

“Paul is my old room-mate so I will be getting in touch to ask him what it was all about,” added Smith.