DUNDEE United and St Mirren emerged into a packed Tannadice for the first leg of the Premiership play-off to the razzmatazz of fireworks and flames blasting all around them. It’s just a shame the game turned out to be a damp squib for the 11,062 fans who proved by far to be the highlight of the occasion.

The atmosphere was very much top drawer, but if either side aspires to be playing at the top level next season they will have to lift their game considerably come Sunday afternoon. In the end, a goalless draw in a match that was high on commitment and sweat and low on quality and skill gave the visitors the draw they came for going into the second leg in Paisley.

It is harsh to blame the players too much for the scrappy nature of the encounter given what was at stake. Nerves were frayed, and it showed. That was particularly the case in the visiting ranks in the opening knockings, as United came haring out of the traps with the crowd behind them. It was Ian Harkes who almost took advantage as the first opportunity of the match fell his way inside the area, only for Ryan Flynn to make a great sliding block to deny the American.

St Mirren were set up not to lose the game first and foremost, but they did have a set-piece chance when Nicky Clark hacked down Stephen McGinn, Kyle McAllister’s inswinging delivery from the right being headed at his own goal by Mark Reynolds from close range. Thankfully for the United captain, it was straight at his keeper Benjamin Siegrist. The keeper would prove an important figure throughout.

A simple clearance from Clark then caught the visiting defence cold as Paul McMullan used his pace to dart away from the lumbering Mihai Popescu to get in on goal, but his low shot was saved by the feet of Vaclav Hladky.

After opening the game like rabbits staring into headlights, St Mirren settled themselves down into a mere frenzy, and they carved out their best opportunity when McAllister got away down the right and cut inside before curling a high effort towards the far post that Siegrist did well to get a hand to and beat clear.

Siegrist denied the Saints again at the start of the second half as a cross from Flynn picked out Lee Hodson sneaking in at the back post, and his clever knock-down was poked towards goal from point-blank range by Kyle Magennis. Somehow though, Siegrist threw up a hand to divert it over.

The impressive McMullan then flashed two low balls across goal that no one in a tangerine jersey got near, perhaps the prompt for home manager Robbie Neilson to withdraw the anonymous Osman Sow and throw on top scorer Pavol Safranko on the hour.

United had a chance moments later, as Hladky came for and missed a corner delivery, but Flynn hooked the ball off the St Mirren line just before Mark Connolly could force Peter Pawlett’s knockdown home.

After that, there was very little to write home about with both sides more concerned with keeping parity before the final showdown on Sunday than trying to nick an advantage.

United substitute Jamie Robson did at least try to force the issue, with his late shot being spilled by Hladky, almost giving Safranko a sniff before the ball was smuggled away, but it can only be hoped that it was worth suffering through this nervy 90 minutes for the cracker that surely awaits at the Simple Digital Arena at the weekend.