Every season your club always seems to play a particular team almost every other week and for us this year it is definitely Alloa Athletic. Not only have we already faced The Wasps in the Betfred Cup, we will also play them on four occasions in the league and next week in the Irn-Bru Cup. The joys of Scottish football.
Last Saturday’s win over Partick Thistle was not pretty but I think at the moment it is a case of winning at all costs and to be honest I will be more than happy if we win ugly every week if it means achieving promotion. There may be those out there that crave aesthetically pleasing football but give me unattractive wins any day of the week. It is very much a hallmark of Csaba Laszlo that we will undoubtedly see very pragmatic performances in the hunt for three points this season but realistically it could be the best way to navigate a team out of this league (see Livingston in 2017/18).
A third win on the bounce for United in the league hasn’t happened since last November but if we manage it on Saturday it would be a great platform to build upon as we head into another two-week league break (albeit with the Irn-Bru Cup a week on Saturday). We can take heart from the fact that no side in the division has managed to win all of their games and if we can get a decent run together then that might be enough to have us heading towards the top. The return of Billy King and Fraser Fyvie to full training means that if we can leave Recreation Park unscathed then we will have almost a full squad to choose from by the time Greenock Morton visit Tannadice. We may also still see one or two additions to the team before then but at the time of writing this hasn’t happened as of yet. Rumours are abound but the only three concrete names in the frame seem to be Martin Woods, Mathias Thrane and Algerian defender Rachid Bouhenna. Both Woods and Thrane are midfielders, with Woods definitely a more defensively minded player (I can’t claim any real knowledge of Thrane). My own personal preference would be a central defender and a creative midfielder but we definitely need to move people on before we can bring new faces in. There is still no clear indication as to what the plans are for James Keatings, Tam Scobbie and Paul McMullan but those are the three who seem to be closest to the exit door. It would be a poor situation for the club if we are to continue to be left with three or four players on first team wages sitting at home on matchdays.
Looking back over the last two league wins it does have to be said that there seems to be a little bit of a turn in fortunes with United and for manager Laszlo. Many, myself included, still have serious doubts about the manager but he has bought himself more time with recent results. In the stands there is still uncertainty but the vibes from inside Tannadice over the last couple of months have been very positive, even if the fans haven’t felt the same. The interviews by the players and staff all seem to talk about the good atmosphere at the club and although much of that might just be paper talk it did look like the team were a tighter group of players last Saturday even if the performance wasn’t the most exciting.
Possible Starting Lineup vs Alloa Athletic –
GK – Matej Rakovan
RB – Stewart Murdoch
CB – Paul Watson
CB – Frederic Frans
LB – Callum Booth
RM – Fraser Aird
CM – Adam Barton
CM – Christoph Rabitsch
LM – Yannick Loemba
ST – Pavol Šafranko
ST – Nicky Clark
Others – You would think that after his fine display against Partick that Craig Curran will be pushing for a start against Alloa and if Nicky Clark isn’t fully fit then he will undoubtedly start. It might also be that Callum Booth isn’t match ready so Jamie Robson may continue at left-back. The other ‘problem’ (but it is a good one) is the shape of the team. Against Partick we probably used 2, maybe 3, different systems at various points in the match and it is likely that Yannick Loemba may continue in a role that allows him to roam freely. The game on Saturday will come too soon for Billy King, Fraser Fyvie and recently injured Sam Stanton. With Allow playing on an artificial pitch you would imagine that anyone not totally 100% will be left out given the potential for aggravating injuries.
Key Player(s) – Alloa have taken the steps to narrow their pitch this season and it looks like United will have to force the issue through the middle of the park instead of out on the wing. Despite not making the most impressive of starts to his Tannadice career it might be that someone like Adam Barton could be key if we are to overload through the middle. The midfielder clearly has great technical ability but he has yet to show it for more than just a few minutes here and there.
View From The Opposition – Before the season started you would have pencilled in Alloa as the whipping boys of the division. They have the smallest budget and possibly the smallest squad but they have already shown that they are no mugs. They secured a dramatic draw up in Inverness last Saturday and they did it after an early red card. Any side travelling to Recreation Park will have to be at their best to win on the narrow artificial surface. Jim Goodwin’s men have nothing to lose and United have immense pressure on them so it could play into their hands, especially if Csaba Laszlo’s side don’t get off to a good start. Alloa will have confidence from the fact that they beat us on penalties in the Betfred cup only a few weeks ago.
Current Form (Last Four Games) –
United – 4-0 Win vs Elgin – League Cup (A), 3-2 Loss vs Dunfermline (H), 2-1 Win vs Queen of the South (A), 3-1 Win vs Partick Thistle (H)
Alloa Athletic – 1-0 Loss vs Ross County (A), 2-0 Loss vs Greenock Morton (H), 3-1 Win vs Stirling Albion Challenge Cup (H), 2-2 Draw vs Inverness (A).
The Weekend’s Full Championship Fixture Card –