Friday Night Lights, you can’t beat it.
Admit it, there is something great about a match under the lights isn’t there? And on a Friday night? Count me in.
I am a self-confessed fan of Friday night football and when the stakes are this high it is impossible not to get excited about the prospect of such an occasion. We also have the luxury of the game being live on TV, beamed to literally hundreds of people on BBC Alba.
There is a real sense of excitement ahead of the Ayr game and it continues the recent theme of United fans being able to genuinely look forward to the football again. It is also a pretty astonishing turnaround from our early season form, and the fact that we can go, at the very least, joint top with a win on Friday is remarkable. It will be a very, very tough match but with Robbie Neilson and his players brimming with confidence then it is a match that we are more than capable of winning.
We’ve had a strange couple of weeks fixture wise and the stop-start nature of the last fortnight has both positives and negatives. It has allowed players to be fully rested after such a hectic schedule but there is also the danger that breaks like this take away some of your urgency and momentum. It was the case that against Alloa we looked a little sluggish and, certainly from my own point of view, we looked to be heading for a potential slip-up until we scored our late fourth goal to put it out of sight.
Rightly so Neilson has said in the wake of that Alloa match that the one and only focus for United this season is 3 points on a Saturday (or a Tuesday, or a Friday). All that matters is we put ourselves into a position to win the title. How that happens is irrelevant and if it means a few lucky 1-0 wins or a couple of poor performances then so be it. Give us 3 points and we will be happy.
Moving back to Friday night I am absolutely buzzing for this fixture. It should be a great atmosphere and with another planned flag display we can hopefully look forward to a great turnout and a real sense of occasion. It is maybe a bit disappointing that the game is available for free on the BBC and hopefully it won’t mean that too many fans choose the warmth of their own house or the pub when they could instead be with thousands of other United supporters at Tannadice. If you are a fan and you have swithered over games recently then you should, if you can afford it, make your way to the game on Friday to get right behind the team.
Possible Starting Lineup vs Ayr United –
GK – Benji Siegrist
RB – Stewart Murdoch
CB – William Edjenguele
CB – Rachid Bouhenna
LB – Callum Booth
CM – Fraser Fyvie
CM – Sam Stanton
RM – Fraser Aird
CAM – Nicky Clark
LM – Paul McMullan
ST – Pavol Safranko
Others – We have the same problem as we had against Alloa, who makes up the back four? It looks like Fyvie is fully fit and will thankfully replace Rabitsch in the middle of the park but at the back we have a bit of a selection headache. I really like Paul Watson as a defender but not really as a right-back. I’m not a massive fan of ‘Edge’ but he has been really good in recent weeks. I think that Frans and Bouhenna make a decent partnership but Frans is now behind others in the queue. For me I would give Murdoch the nod at right-back and have Edjenguele and Bouhenna in the middle with Booth on the left.
Further forward I would give Clark another start given he scored in the previous match. He drifted in and out of the Alloa game but he is a natural goalscorer and we will need to have our shooting boots on against Ayr.
Key Player(s) – I’ve just mentioned the defence and that will continue here. We will need to be able to shut down the threat that Ayr pose and that is a big ask given the free-scoring nature of Ian McCall’s men. They have one of the big, big players in the league in the shape of Shankland and they are a side full of confidence going forward. I believe that on his day Rachid Bouhenna is possibly the best defender in the league and we will need a big performance from him, Siegrist and the others at the back.
View From The Opposition – There is no doubt that Ayr are the success story of the Championship. They are showing everyone else what a tight and talented squad can do once they gather momentum and gather confidence. The real testament to what McCall has been doing at Somerset falls on the fact that there have been no major changes between their season in League One and this one in the Championship. Speaking as a fan of a team who have bought and released dozens upon dozens of players in recent years it is very much the case that Ayr have shown that a structured and consistent plan can work.
We keep being told that Ayr will “fall away” and maybe much of that will depend on January, but what if they don’t? Livingston had the exact same situation last year and they lasted the pace.
Whatever happens on Friday we are looking at a game that could have a huge bearing on what might unfold over the next six weeks or so. Both United and Ayr have a tough run of Fixtures coming up ahead of the festive period and then the January window (Ayr in particular face United, County, and Inverness in the next three games).
Current Form (Last Four League Games) –
United – 2-0 Win vs Dunfermline (A), 2-0 Win vs Queen of the South (H), 1-0 Win vs Ross County (A), 4-2 Win vs Alloa (H)
Ayr United – 3-0 Win vs Alloa (H), 1-0 Win vs Falkirk (A), 1-1 Draw vs Queen of the South (H), 0-0 Draw vs Morton (H)
Current Championship Table –
Finally, and this is purely a statement that aims to pull at the Tangerine coloured heartstrings, please do make your way to Tannadice if you can on Friday. This is such a big game for the club and the players have shown in recent weeks that they are willing to put in the work. We now have a manager who looks like he could be the real deal and we are now in a fantastic position to be challenging for the title.
Get along to support the boys and let’s create a fantastic atmosphere!