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HERO DODDS STURS UP UNITED; Billy's hat-trick sinks Saints.

St Johnstone 1 Dundee Utd 3

ANY lingering doubts ex-Saints boss Paul Sturrock had about jumping ship to Tannadice vanished without trace, courtesy of Billy Dodds.

For once, the match surpassed the hype with a Dodds hat-trick and two red cards.

St Johnstone, fresh from their shock win at Celtic Park on Wednesday, were simply left breathless by a polished United, recording only their third win this year.

The extent of their superiority was magnified by Stuart McCluskey's 35th- minute red card for hauling down Kjell Olofsson.

But by then United were well on top, thanks to the inclusion of new boy Dodds who appears to be the missing link United have been crying out for, adding a new dimension to their attack.

He said: "We've got a very good blend all round. Pace up front, a passing midfield and a solid defence.''

Two weeks ago he was treading water at Aberdeen but here he was a constant threat as he, and a rejuvenated Olofsson, ran riot.

He added: "Kjell was unbelievable down the left. When you get service like that, you can't help but score."

The ex-Saint got a few pelters from the home support, along with his new boss Sturrock, and is now looking forward to the same treatment when he faces his other old club Dundee.

Sturrock also laughed off the abuse from the stands which strangely didn't materialise until Saints were two goals down. He said: "I knew beforehand the area it would come from, but I was surprised it was so mild."

Dodds' striking partner Olofsson revelled in his return to his natural role as a winger where he played all his career before joining United. Sturrock's knowledge of his old side's weak spots were also a major factor.

He said: "I knew where to put certain players against others and it seemed to pay off."

Rumours were also rife of a return to Tayside for Saints keeper Main, bought from United for pounds 120,000.

He said: "I'm contracted to St Johnstone and I'll play as well as I can here.

"I would like to play for a bigger club though, and I think United have that potential. Perhaps playing for a bigger club would help my Scotland career as well."

Main didn't do his Scotland chances any harm with a string of vital stops for Saints, whose day gradually went from bad to worse.

The initial blow came after just 16 minutes from Dodds who sent a looping header from 18 yards over Main after an expert delivery from full-back Iain Jenkins.

Blow No.2 came on the half-hour as Gerry McMahon was stretchered off with a suspected torn muscle.

And the third was the turning point as Lars Zetterlund sent Olofsson clear in 35 minutes only to be hauled down by McCluskey inside the box. McCluskey, clearly the last man, was promptly red-carded by ref Stuart Dougal, leaving St Johnstone with no realistic way back into the game.

Dodds duly slammed home the spot kick to notch his and United's killer second goal.

The second half was more of the same, with Saints defending desperately under constant siege from a merciless United.

The home side did have chances to get back into the fight though with George O'Boyle trying to walk the ball in after good work from Allan Preston.

The introduction of Roddy Grant for Nathan Lowndes in 66 minutes injected some belief back into Saints.

Grant got in front of Darren Patterson at the near post but his effort was agonisingly inches wide.

O'Boyle then passed up a gilt-edged opportunity on 75 minutes when Maurice Malpas and Sieb Dykstra left the ball to each other but O'Boyle returned the compliment.

The killer came seven minutes from time. Dodds chipped Main before calmly volleying into the open net to complete his hat-trick and Saints' misery. A mix- up in the United defence allowed Grant to prod a consolation for the home side a minute later but by then St Johnstone's chips were well and truly out.

In the last few minutes, Olofsson was sent packing for an alleged off- the-ball incident with O'Boyle.

Olofsson, who has never been sent off before, said: "O'Boyle was lying on my legs and I was just trying to get free, but the linesman must have thought I was trying to kick him."

Sturrock played down the turnaround in his team's performance. He said: "We are still bottom, but we are closing the gap. One swallow doesn't make a summer."

Disappointed Saints' boss Sandy Clark said: "Perhaps it brings everyone back to earth after Wednesday. I suppose it had to come sometime.

"The game was lost in the first 20 minutes when United showed more will to win. By that time the damage was done.''

ST JOHNSTONE: Main, Dasovic, Kernaghan, O'Neil (Whiteford 45), O'Boyle, Kane, McMahon (Preston 28), Bollan, McCluskey, Dods, Lowndes (Grant 64)

DUNDEE UTD: Dykstra, Jenkins, Malpas, Patterson, Olofsson, Zetterlund, Easton, McSwegan, Dodds, Skoldmark, Pascual

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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:CAMPBELL, Alan
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 28, 1998
Previous Article:Just how will critics see Reds?

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