Well let’s be honest, after 55 turgid minutes of football on Friday night I did not expect to be writing a piece previewing the next round of the playoffs. I had sat in my seat for most of half-time thinking about what I wanted to write in an end of season rant but from the moment Scott McDonald’s neat flick ended up in the back of the net to level the score it was pretty much all United and now we can look ahead with genuine optimism as we face Livingston tomorrow night and again on Friday. Although we did play some pretty uninspiring football against Dunfermline we did eventually dominate the game and we ran out comfortable winners in the end. We managed the game very well and it was a rare glimpse of United’s players showing grit and determination. We may have only had two days rest but you would hope that the professionalism and experience of the squad will give them that extra energy boost ahead of tomorrow’s home leg.
Moving on to the game itself and I actually quite like the fact that we are at home in the first leg. I know that generally speaking the advantage is always if you play at home in the second game but to be honest our away form is so poor that if we can get a decent result at home then it would give us something to hold on to. I also think that the mood after the game on Friday was really positive so hopefully that good feeling (coupled with the bank holiday weekend and decent weather) might mean a good turn out and a great atmosphere from the stands. The players need us to give them our complete and unwaivering support until the end of these playoff games.
On paper I am actually more optimistic about beating Livingston compared to Dunfermline. I think that Dunfermline have a stronger squad of players and Livingston, for the most part, have relied heavily on team spirit, form and good man management. In a one-off cup-tie like fixture I think that United should be confident of securing a result and the home advantage tomorrow night should give the players confidence.
I personally hope that Laszlo will start with a more recognised 4-4-2 and I think that, fitness permitting, we should be looking to play our most physical starting 11. Livingston know how to play a more physical game and I worry that players like Fraser and Robson may not be given the time and space on the ball they want. The changes I would make would be to drop Robson and bring Durnan back into the heart of the defence, allowing Murdoch to be shifted over to the left. I would also start with Mikkelsen upfront alongside McDonald to give him help in unsettling the Livi defence. I’d like to think that McMullan would be fit enough to start out wide with King on the opposition flank. It is safe to say that King has not exactly stood out in the playoffs but to be honest he is the only other genuine wide player we have.
What we need again is a good backing from the fans. The atmosphere at East End Park was great and although the first half on Friday meant a chorus of boos at half-time the atmosphere in the last twenty minutes was brilliant. It felt like Tannadice should and it was great to hear some of the lesser heard songs getting a run out as we made our way out of the ground and into the queue for tickets.
United are more than capable of securing their place in the playoff final. Let’s make it happen, let’s back the team and let’s turn Tannadice into a sea of tangerine tomorrow night.