It is frustrating that this early on in the season that we have just been through our second break in league fixtures. With the brand new and totally confusing Nations League taking place over last weekend the Scottish leagues were put on hold once more, although we did have the Irn-Bru Cup match against Alloa. With our early season form you might expect me to be quite pleased at another ‘free’ weekend but truth be told I actually want a league game every week, even if it gives me the fear in the build-up and then the rage in the aftermath. Not only is it far too early in the season to be having these interruptions, I’m also a glutton for punishment.
This weekend we face Greenock Morton who have had a bit of a turbulent time of late and for anyone who was preparing for a Ray McKinnon homecoming party well that will have to be put on hold as he no longer sits in the manager’s seat at Cappielow (but more on that later). Our next five games take us up to the end of the first quarter and for Csaba Laszlo it could that these fixtures give the board the evidence they need in terms of making a decision about how much more time they give the Hungarian.
A number of weeks ago at the club’s first SLG meeting of the season it was reported in the minutes that the board are looking for a points return of about 18 per quarter as they look to secure the Championship title. Looking back at recent campaigns the total of 72 should be just about enough to win the league. We are currently on 7 so that would mean securing 11 points during the run of Morton at home, Falkirk away, Ross County at home, Ayr United away and finally Inverness at Tannadice. Can it be done? Almost certainly. Will it be done? Well that depends on how optimistic you want me to be.
Last time out against Alloa the brutal truth is that we were simply not good enough. Yes the pitch was narrow and the Alloa side made it hard for us to play to our normal strengths but that is what we are up against and we should have the players to win those sorts of games. The pressure is on Laszlo but there must also be pressure on the eleven footballers who take to the pitch wearing those United shirts. They need to give us something to get behind.
One reason we can hope for better things against Morton is that it looks like the squad is beginning to get back to full health. The only major doubt for Morton is Sam Stanton but elsewhere we can hopefully expect appearances from Billy King, Callum Booth, Nicky Clark and most importantly Fraser Fyvie. The club captain played a solid 30 minutes against Alloa and was on the field against St.Johnstone Reserves on Tuesday.
Possible Starting Lineup vs Greenock Morton –
GK – Matej Rakovan
RWB – Fraser Aird
CB – Paul Watson
CB – Rachid Bouhenna
CB – Frederic Frans
LWB – Callum Booth
CM – Adam Barton
CM – Christoph Rabitsch
CAM – Yannick Loemba
ST – Pavol Šafranko
ST – Nicky Clark
Others – For me personally I would like to see Laszlo return to a 5-3-2 for this one and I think with Booth now almost up to speed he should start ahead of Robson with new defender Bouhenna alongside Watson and Frans. I’d love to give Fraser Fyvie a start but I think it is still too early for him and for Billy King to be in that position. With us facing Falkirk next week it might be that Fyvie and King are also still protected for that fixture due to the pitch there.
Looking at the lineup above it would look so much stronger with Fyvie and Stanton in the middle and hopefully we are only a few weeks away from that being the case.
Key Player(s) – Against Alloa we probably witnessed Yannick Loemba’s poorest outing for United. It was a real disappointment that he couldn’t get control of the game because with his natural ability we needed someone like him to carry the team forward in such a stop-start match. Hopefully at Tannadice with the support of the home fans he will find his form again and show us what he is really capable of. The Loemba we saw in Dumfries a few weeks ago has the potential to be one of the strongest players in the Championship.
View From The Opposition – Where to begin? After a solid summer of recruitment and a great deal of positivity from the stands it looked like Morton were building real momentum in these early weeks. They had some impressive results in the bag and Ray McKinnon seemed to be enjoying his time in Greenock. Then Paul Hartley got sacked at Falkirk.
What followed Hartley’s departure is still up for debate but essentially McKinnon and his sidekick Darren Taylor decided to leave their posts at Cappielow to set up home in Falkirk. All of this happened incredibly quickly and rightly angered the Morton support who were beginning to relax into a Ray McKinnon tenure. Seeking new opportunities in your world of work is fine but in football management you always feel as though a manager should honour at least a sizeable chunk of his contract before this happens. Whether this mess has been the right call for McKinnon is yet to be seen but for the board at Morton they have had to yet again start over (albeit with no time to change any aspect of the playing squad). The man they have opted for is former Rangers, Hibs and St.Johnstone striker Jonatan Johansson. The 43 year-old Finn has six or so years worth of coaching behind him but this is his first ever senior management post so it is very much an experimental, but potentially exciting, appointment (it is at least not a name on the usual Scottish managerial merry-go-round).
Current Form (Last Four Games) –
United – 3-2 Loss vs Dunfermline (H), 2-1 Win vs Queen of the South (A), 3-1 Win vs Partick Thistle (H), 1-1 Draw with Alloa (H)
Greenock Morton – 2-2 Draw vs Queen of the South (H), 2-0 Win vs Alloa (A), 2-1 Win vs Ross County (H), 1-0 Loss vs Partick Thistle (H)
The Weekend’s Full Championship Fixture Card –