Dundee United embroiled are in a real relegation scrap and they’ll be determined to try and narrow the six point gap as ninth-placed Partick Thistle visit on Saturday.
United boss Mixu Paatelainen was left tearing what little hair he’s got left out as his rock-bottom Tannadice side squandered a number of chances to win at Kilmarnock last weekend in high, swirling winds.
But a point was regarded as better than nothing, despite Killie being reduced to ten men when Stuart Findlay sent Ryan McGowan tumbling in the box and Billy Mckay tucked away from the penalty spot.
The Tangerines had also dominated for long spells during their recent 2-1 defeat by Hamilton Accies and the fact that they are creating chances – but failing to put them away – was of some comfort to the big Finn, whose side have been beaten in 12 of their 17 games so far this season and have netted just 13 times while conceding a bumper 33.
The Jags go into the fixture on the back of victories over Inverness Caley Thistle and Kilmarnock so the mood in Alan Archibald’s camp is upbeat. They netted five times in a demolition job at Killie and will be looking to produce a similar display of attacking intent when they visit the strugglers.
An injury-hit United can expect no mercy from a side that has already beaten them 3-0 this term and Paatalainen will be hoping that his team can start to put together some kind of run to get themselves out of trouble.
He’ll take anything at the moment – a dodgy offside winner, one going in off a backside or a bobbler into the corner past an unsighted keeper. Forget the pretty stuff – United’s job is now to fight for survival and if that means winning ugly, then so be it. Expect plenty of long ball stuff, midfield battles and dogged defending on the heavy pitches of Scottish winter.
For if his players can trudge off caked in mud, and maybe even a bit of blood, then Mixu can at least say that they’ve given their all. That’s all he’s demanding from them. The willingness to go out and scrap for every loose ball, to crunch into every fifty-fifty challenge, to fight their way out of the danger-zone.
It’s times like these that show the real character of players and whether they are up for rolling up their sleeves and putting themselves on the line for the team, the fans and the boss and Paatalainen may stick with the three at the back that he deployed at Killie, but that could open his defence up to a Thistle side that can revert to three up top, which would really open the game up.
This has the potential to be a real blood and thunder clash as both sides look to take the three points and the first goal could be crucial in deciding where the points end up. United's Great Escape - if it's to happen - has to begin here.
Dundee United Stats W2 D3 L12
Recent Form WLLLLD
Partick Thistle Stats W4 D5 L7
Recent Form WDLDWW
03/10/2015 Partick Thistle 3 Dundee United 0
28/02/2015 Dundee United 0 Partick Thistle 2
04/01/2015 Partick Thistle 2 Dundee United 2
18/10/2014 Dundee United 1 Partick Thistle 0
01/02/2014 Partick Thistle 1 Dundee United 1
Dundee United (3-4-1-2) – Szromnik, Dillon, Durnan, Gunning, Dixon, Soutar, Rankin, R MacGowan, Sinama-Pongolle, Spittal, McKay.
Partick Thistle (4-4-2) Scully, Dumbuya, Lindsay, Seaborne, Booth, Muirhead, Bannigan, Fraser, Lawless, Osman, Doolan.
Dundee United: Dow (inj), Paton (inj), Morris (inj), Bodul (inj).
Partick Thistle: Lindsay (susp), Elliot (inj), Cerny (inj).