A week is a long time in football.
After I published my St.Mirren match preview I was sent three separate messages via Twitter and Facebook accusing me of being overly pessimistic. I would argue that the match preview didn’t contain anything that wasn’t true and that it was written after a series of very, very poor performances. Maybe it was Csaba who messaged me and then decided to pin the report up in the Tannadice dressing room because less than 24 hours later Dundee United produced, in many ways, the performance of the season so far. To deny St.Mirren the title at Tannadice was important for the players but more so for the fans. The team has since followed that win with another 3 points against Falkirk and then again against Brechin on Tuesday night. It gives us all hope that maybe, just maybe, the season might still have a few surprises left. We are in a very strong position to secure at least a playoff spot and you can now begin to even dream about a 2nd place finish. If we did somehow finish behind St.Mirren it would give the team some extra rest before the playoff fixtures. It requires Livi dropping points but they may well do that against Inverness next Tuesday night as the Highland side can still sneak into the playoffs and they will travel to the Tony Macaroni Arena full of confidence after a remarkable run of wins. If David Hopkin’s men do drop points then the last league game of the season will be a really exciting fixture to look forward to. It also looks like Csaba has finally found a fairly settled side that can produce some consistency at the right time. Is everything falling in to place?
The most pleasing aspect about the last few games and, in particular, the St.Mirren performance is the fact that we have played like a Championship team. By that I mean we are a bit happier to kick folk, waste a little time and ‘play the game’ a little bit in terms of sportsmanship. For some it might be a little much but for me and most United fans it is a refreshing and satisfying style of play because it shows another side to a team that we have been questioning. We are not out of the woods, there are still flaws, but the last three games have shown us a different Dundee United.
There is no doubt that the game on Saturday is a must win. Hopefully this newly galvanised group of players can yet again produce the goods and, as long as the footballing gods are smiling on us, it means we can then begin to look forward to a final day showdown against Livingston.
What we will definitely need in Dumfries is another strong performance by our defenders and goalkeeper. Amazingly we have now managed three clean sheets in a row, something that would have been unthinkable a few fixtures previous. Praise must be given to Deniz Mehmet who has now probably cemented his number one spot for the remaining games and it has been very pleasing to watch the development of Tony Ralston who is growing with each passing minute on the pitch. There is also no doubt that we are now beginning to see the real value in our surprise signing of Bilel Mohsni. He may well have been a figure of fun before he arrived at Tannadice but he is clearly the best defender we have and he could be the key to any possible playoff success (ironic given his history in these games). Reports today suggest we are trying to negotiate a contract extension for the defender, whose contract expires this summer.
It was mentioned the other day that we now have more points than we did last season which feels a bit strange given the overall disappointment in this campaign. Make no mistake, if we do not get promoted it will be seen as a failure but we are at least putting ourselves in a position to make it a possibility, regardless of how slight a chance that might be.
All talk of the boardroom strife and potential investment is probably going to put in hold over the next four weeks as these season, and potentially club, defining games begin. It would be fantastic if this squad can give us something to get excited about in the month of May.