The phrase “must win” has been used many times this season and unfortunately here we are again. The difference this time is that every game left is a “must win” and we are now in the final stretch.
There is no more room for error.
Last week was a tale of two results and a tale of two occasions. We had a solid and important win against Inverness on the Tuesday but that was followed up by a trademark United let-down live on the TV in the Scottish Cup.
Many fans will still feel deflated after our cup exit and rightly so. The build up to the tie was really positive and showed us all what the club can be when everyone is pulling in the same direction. The social media output from the club was very good and it helped build a sense of excitement. Fans all rallied and the attendance was fantastic for a live TV match. The new owners were in town and the ‘Pack The Shed’ campaign worked wonders. It felt like a genuine occasion to savour. We also had the touching and emotional tribute to United fan James Jack that culminated in a wonderful march of supporters making their way to the ground pre-match, followed by a 31st minute of applause from the entire crowd.
Unfortunately the performance on the pitch was very familiar. A big crowd and a big match has all too often meant a big disappointment. We have seen it under McKinnon, we have seen it under Laszlo and we have now seen it under Neilson. It is a worrying trend. Ask United fans what the problem is and many will talk to you about mentality. It is meant to be something that we have now sorted given our recruitment but Sunday was a stark reminder of our frailties.
The positive thing is that we ARE in a better place and we ARE in a more solid position with regards to ownership and a vision for the future. We also still have, in my opinion, the right man for the job. It has saddened me (and confused me) that some supporters are beginning to question Neilson just a few short months into the job and with a squad rebuild under his belt. He has made mistakes but it is far, far too early to even be thinking about Neilson being under pressure.
So, what now? Well simply put we have to win and win and win. There isn’t any other way. We don’t have time to experiment and we have no time to lose. It is all or bust from now on in and at the very least we need to be strengthening our position in second place.
A big issue at the moment is the lack of goals. We seem to be capable of creating lots of little half chances and we tend to control the ball quite well (Saturday apart) but we don’t ever seem to cut teams open. This is more important than the defensive side of things. At the back we are okay but it is in the forward area we need to start clicking.
In club news we are still re-shuffling our staff. Today it was revealed that both Craig Easton and Scott Robertson may be leaving Tannadice. They returned last summer in what looked like a solid move but they have been deemed surplus under the new regime. You would assume that Tony Asghar has a plan in place for replacing them.
Possible lineup against Partick –
I think this lineup is more hope rather than expectation. Ideally we would be playing with a more recognised front two but I think Neilson may stick with a 4231. What he should probably do is give Nesbitt an opportunity from the start. With Pawlett suspended and Cammy Smith out of form it might be a chance for both McMullan and Nesbitt to play as genuine wide players and get crosses into the box.
The one obvious change is bringing Butcher immediately back into he side. I have a great deal of sympathy for Fraser Fyvie but the reality is that he is serious off the pace and last Saturday was too much for him to handle.
Whatever side we put out we just need to be more aggressive, more dynamic and more forceful with the ball.
Key Player(s) – The strikers. We need more goals and we need to convert our chances. It has been suggested that Safranko needs a rest but I still see him as being our key player going forward if he is played in the right system. Hopefully we try a more recognised 442 against Partick to at least give him more support upfront.
View From The Opposition – After a dreadful start under Gary Caldwell it looked like Partick were finding their feet recently but they have suffered back to back losses in recent weeks. They did show great determination in the Scottish Cup against Hearts but they remain a very unpredictable side.
Like Falkirk they really picked up after the festive period and they still have a great deal to fight for as they try to avoid the drop. They will be up for the visit of United and we need to be prepared for a very tough fixture.
FORM (LAST FOUR LEAGUE GAMES) –
United – 2-1 Win vs Morton (H), 1-0 Win vs Queen of the South (A), 1-1 Draw vs Falkirk (A), 1-0 Win vs Inverness
Partick– 2-1 Win vs Inverness (A), 2-0 Win vs Alloa (A), 4-2 Loss vs Ross County (H), 3-0 Loss vs Dunfermline (A)
CURRENT CHAMPIONSHIP TABLE –