Published: 18th December 2019
Despite a strong start from the Young Terrors at New Central Park, they ultimately crashed out of the Scottish FA Youth Cup after two late St Johnstone goals secured the Perthshire club's progress to the last-eight.
Goals from Darren Watson and Archie Meekison either side of Ewan Loudon and Alex Ferguson's penalties had the game at a deadlock heading into the final ten minutes, but it was the Saints who snatched victory thanks to headers from Jordan Northcott and Aiden Walsh.
With a place in the quarter-finals of the Youth Cup at stake, United came flying out the traps as Watson was released down the right-wing after three minutes by Lewis Neilson's long-ball forward, but the final cross was deflected narrowly on to the roof of the net.
It wouldn't take long for Watson to threaten again. Some fantastic link-up play between himself and Fin Malcolm saw the young forward receive the ball in the six-yard box and he had the simplest of finishes to have United up and running.
The remainder of the first half was one-way traffic from the Young Terrors. Finn Robson was pulling the strings in midfield and his perfectly-weighted pass sent Watson charging through on goal again after 28 minutes, but the Saints defender kept him under enough pressure to see the shot fired wide.
In the 32nd minute, Watson beat the offside trap thanks to a brilliant pass from Chris Mochrie but the cross was charged down by a member of the St Johnstone backline who'd made it back in time. The pair combined again 60 seconds later with Watson slipping a ball through the two centre-backs. United's number 10 pulled the ball back to the on running Lewis Fraser but his shot was blocked by the last defender.
But after such a dominant display, disaster struck in the final minute of the half when Loudon was brought down in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Loudon stepped up to take the penalty he'd won and sent Reece Beveridge the wrong way to level the match as the teams headed back to the changing rooms.
It was only six minutes after the restart when the referee awarded another spot-kick to the home side when Ferguson was fouled after turning in the box. Like the first, the winner of the penalty stepped up to take it and Ferguson fired it straight down the middle to flip the game on its head.
The penalties weren't done there, however, as the Young Terrors were awarded one of their own shortly after the hour mark when Watson broke into the box again and was brought down by Walsh. Meekison made no mistake from the spot as he sent Jack Wills the wrong way and levelled things up with more than 20 minutes remaining.
Similar to the first half, it was United who went on to dominate the next ten minutes of play. Watson saw a lobbed shot tipped over the bar in the 69th minute before Mochrie had a close-range shot charged down by the keeper eight minutes later.
But with five minutes remaining, the wind was knocked out of United's sails when St Johnstone restored their lead. Right-back Callum Bisset delivered a curling cross into the middle of the box where Northcott rose highest to nod into the side netting.
The hosts then put the tie to bed in the dying seconds of the match as Walsh made up for his penalty blunder by heading home from five yards out.
Head Professional Performance Coach Adam Asghar said: "We know what this team can do in terms of controlling possession but if you don't manage moments of transition, don't want to defend crosses or you don't concentrate because you have so much of the ball it's going to cause us problems and the boys aren't going to get what they deserve.
"In terms of the general game we had a lot of good moments but we can't have any complaints if we're not willing to be reactive and concentrate when we do lose the ball. Four times they get up the pitch and we give away two penalties which they score from and two crosses which the players have ghosted in to meet. It's a very disappointed dressing room."
Next up for the 18s is a trip to take on Motherwell at Briadhusrt High School on Friday afternoon. Kick-off is 1.30pm.
Dundee United: Beveridge, Cooney, Duffy, Robson (Caves 55), Neilson, Smith, Watson, Fraser (Naglik 85), Malcolm, Mochrie and Meekison
Subs not used: Robertson, Bisland, Brown and Hutchinson.
Watch the match highlights below.