Saturday, 5 December 2015 at 15:00 GMT / 15:00 UK / 20:30 IST
Rugby Park, Kilmarnock
Oh, so it’s silly season, is it? Kilmarnock’s heavy 5-2 home defeat by Partick Thistle saw them drop down to tenth in the table and was their third loss in four games. Now they face a rock-bottom Dundee United who’ve been beaten in seven of their last eight, so something has to give in the fixture.
This game has the feel of a real basement battle about it and both managers will be looking at the game as a six-pointer. They both desperately need to win this game if they’re to have any hopes of getting out of trouble at the wrong end of the table.
With Rangers and Hibs slogging it out at the top of the Championship, it will be one of these sides that they are replacing in the top flight next season unless they can start stringing a series of positive results together. Starting now, because the physiological boost that winning this game could give could have a massive bearing on the side’s form going into the heavy, hectic Christmas period on soggy pitches in miserable conditions.
But how do you call it? Would a point be considered favourable for either side? United boss Mixu Paatelainen needs his side to stop the rot of defeats but with them cut adrift seven points behind Motherwell at rock bottom, he’ll surely demand three. A point doesn’t really do either side any favours and they’ll have to go all out for the victory. It’s the fear factor that might hold them back.
Kilmarnock boss Gary Locke needs to see a positive reaction from his side after last weekend’s demoralising home drubbing by the Jags. Josh Magennis and Mark Connolly were on target in that loss but both sides have found the goals in somewhat short supply so far this term. But they’ll both fancy their chances against each other’s defences which are the leakiest in the SPFL Premiership.
There will be opportunities, that’s for sure – it’s just a case of who can bury them in the back of the net and whoever scores first in this game will probably go on to win it. I might regret this, but a fancy Kilmarnock to just sneak the win with a deflected shot, or a controversial penalty, or a daft own goal. But to be brutally honest this one has the potential to go either way.
Relegation battles are all about getting a little break, a small piece of fortune, and with the passion and intensity generated in the desire to take the points it’s about keeping eleven men on the pitch. This is the kind of fixture that has the potential for someone to lose their head and be sent down the tunnel for an early bath and that could have a major bearing on the result.
It’s all good studying the form but when they players get out onto the pitch with the crowd baying for blood in their ears then anything can happen and the strength of character of the match officials could well be tested here. Barring any major controversial decisions however, my heart says United could sneak something here, while my head says play it safe and get on Killie. It’s a tough call.
Kilmarnock Stats W4 D4 L8
Recent Form WWLLDL
Dundee United Stats W2 D2 L12
Recent Form LWLLLL
12/09/2015 Dundee United 1 Kilmarnock 2
14/02/2015 Kilmarnock 3 Dundee United 2
22/11/2014 Dundee United 3 Kilmarnock 1
03/10/2014 Kilmarnock 2 Dundee United 0
15/02/2014 Dundee United 3 Kilmarnock 2
Kilmarnock (4-4-1-1) –MacDonald, O’Hara, Connolly, Balatoni, McHattie, S Smith, Robinson, Obadeyi, Kiltie, Higginbotham, Magennis.
Dundee United (4-2-3-1) – Szromnik, Dillon, Durnan, Gunning, Dixon, Soutar, Rankin, R MacGowan, Telfer, Spittal, McKay.
Kilmarnock: Johnston (inj), Westlake (inj), McKenzie (inj).
Dundee United: Erskine (inj), Paton (inj), Morris (inj).
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