How is everyone feeling? Still can’t get over what happened last Friday? Me neither.
The fallout from the Ayr result has been a mixture of anger and confusion but the players and staff have spent much of this week trying to move forward and push past what felt like a hammer blow to our title ambitions and confidence.
Robbie Neilson was quick to acknowledge the issues his side had against Ian McCall’s men and I feel pretty confident in his ability to rectify those problems as we move towards the game against Morton. I would not have had the same confidence under our previous manager but you get the impression that Neilson may have revelled in this week’s training as it probably gave him an opportunity to push the players and tell them exactly what went wrong.
The squad’s mental strength will be under the microscope on Saturday. In the past that has meant even more worries given the fragility in recent United teams but things will hopefully be different under Neilson and we will see the first big test of that at Cappielow. What we won’t see are too many changes apart from the obvious two or three. It is clear that Neilson has little confidence in a number of players (Barton, Loemba etc) so it would be a shock to see any of them appear in the starting eleven after so long out of the team.
Obvious changes for Saturday’s match will include the removal of Paul Watson and William Edjenguele from the back-four. Both were highly guilty of individual errors that directly cost us goals and although others were also at fault you would assume that Frederic Frans and Stewart Murdoch may return.
A good manager can turn a result like last Friday’s into a positive by giving his squad the lift they need and the instructions they need to go and rectify things and start a new run of form. Before the January window opens we face – Morton (A), Inverness (A), Falkirk (H), Alloa (A). We should be looking at those games and targeting 10 out of 12 at the very least and there is no reason why, given our form before Ayr, that we can’t target all 12. Anything less than 10 will undoubtedly mean ground being lost in the race for the title.
Speaking of January we’ve had the first real hint of Neilson looking to bring people in but much will depend on possibly moving players out of the club and the financial implications of any potential investment/takeover.
“Everybody will be looking to bring in reinforcements in January.
“I don’t want it to be wholesale changes. There is a lot to be said for continuity and building relationships in the team.
“January is a difficult window. A couple could bolster us but it has to be the right ones and in the right positions. We’re working on that at the moment.”
Neilson knows that the window might not be the magical month we all hope for and we cannot simply sign half a dozen players for the reasons he mentions above. What we definitely do need are two or three players who can provide us with that additional quality and edge we need. You only have to look at the bench recently to see that the squad is not as strong as it appeared when the season began. January has not been a positive window for United for a number of seasons but Neilson will need to change that.
Possible Starting Lineup vs Greenock Morton –
GK – Matej Rakovan
RB – Stewart Murdoch
CB – Frederic Frans
CB – Rachid Bouhenna
LB – Callum Booth
CM – Fraser Fyvie
CM – Sam Stanton
RM – Fraser Aird
CAM – Paul McMullan
LM – Billy King
ST – Pavol Safranko
Others – We’ve not really heard too much about the injury to Siegrist but it looks like he will miss out for the trip to Greenock. The goalkeeping situation still needs to be addressed as neither Siegrist or Rakovan have really nailed down the number one spot and with Mehmet still at the club, but injured, it leaves us wondering who exactly Neilson sees as his first choice. Elsewhere it looks like Nicky Clark is going to be out for a few weeks and that is a blow given our lack of options in that area. There is a hint of the Keatings about Clark as he hasn’t really managed to get a run of games behind him and in pre-season we probably looked at his signing as being one of the key pieces of business ahead of the new campaign.
Key Player(s) – Not really one player in particular but more the entire team. The squad need to show the fans that last Friday was indeed a freak one-off. They also need to show their manager that he is right to show the faith in them. We need a big performance from every single player who takes to that pitch on Saturday and that is especially true for club captain Fraser Fyvie. After a lengthy layoff he is still finding his feet and fitness but last Friday was a 90 minutes to forget. His teammates need to rally round him and they need to give it their all to support their captain.
View From The Opposition – The tenure of Jonaton Johansson is probably best described as erratic. The form of his side has been wildly up and down and there is still a sense of this Morton side not really having an identity or consistent set of ideas. Johansson spent some time shuffling formations and although that has now settled he doesn’t really come across as someone who maybe has full confidence in the players he has inherited.
It is still early days but is Johansson the right man for Morton? He needs a good January window and as long as he can stabilise the performance levels then he will be given time but the performances have been so varied that it is difficult to tell how this is all going to pan out. Having Ray McKinnon do all the transfer business so quickly, and then leave, it is maybe too harsh to properly judge a manager when he is using a squad that is not his own.
Personally I am a huge fan of Michael Tidser and he is probably the stand-out player in this Morton squad. If they do start to struggle might he fancy his chances at a higher level in the summer?
Current Form (Last Four League Games) –
United – 2-0 Win vs Queen of the South (H), 1-0 Win vs Ross County (A), 4-2 Win vs Alloa (H), 5-0 Loss vs Ayr United (A)
Greenock Morton – 5-1 Win vs Partick Thistle (H), 2-0 Loss vs Alloa (H), 0-0 Draw vs Ayr United (A), 3-0 Loss vs Dunfermline (A)