Tag Archives: Livingston

Playoff Preview – Dundee United vs Livingston

Well let’s be honest, after 55 turgid minutes of football on Friday night I did not expect to be writing a piece previewing the next round of the playoffs. I had sat in my seat for most of half-time thinking about what I wanted to write in an end of season rant but from the moment Scott McDonald’s neat flick ended up in the back of the net to level the score it was pretty much all United and now we can look ahead with genuine optimism as we face Livingston tomorrow night and again on Friday. Although we did play some pretty uninspiring football against Dunfermline we did eventually dominate the game and we ran out comfortable winners in the end. We managed the game very well and it was a rare glimpse of United’s players showing grit and determination. We may have only had two days rest but you would hope that the professionalism and experience of the squad will give them that extra energy boost ahead of tomorrow’s home leg.

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Moving on to the game itself and I actually quite like the fact that we are at home in the first leg. I know that generally speaking the advantage is always if you play at home in the second game but to be honest our away form is so poor that if we can get a decent result at home then it would give us something to hold on to. I also think that the mood after the game on Friday was really positive so hopefully that good feeling (coupled with the bank holiday weekend and decent weather) might mean a good turn out and a great atmosphere from the stands. The players need us to give them our complete and unwaivering support until the end of these playoff games.

On paper I am actually more optimistic about beating Livingston compared to Dunfermline. I think that Dunfermline have a stronger squad of players and Livingston, for the most part, have relied heavily on team spirit, form and good man management. In a one-off cup-tie like fixture I think that United should be confident of securing a result and the home advantage tomorrow night should give the players confidence.

I personally hope that Laszlo will start with a more recognised 4-4-2 and I think that, fitness permitting, we should be looking to play our most physical starting 11. Livingston know how to play a more physical game and I worry that players like Fraser and Robson may not be given the time and space on the ball they want. The changes I would make would be to drop Robson and bring Durnan back into the heart of the defence, allowing Murdoch to be shifted over to the left. I would also start with Mikkelsen upfront alongside McDonald to give him help in unsettling the Livi defence. I’d like to think that McMullan would be fit enough to start out wide with King on the opposition flank. It is safe to say that King has not exactly stood out in the playoffs but to be honest he is the only other genuine wide player we have.

What we need again is a good backing from the fans. The atmosphere at East End Park was great and although the first half on Friday meant a chorus of boos at half-time the atmosphere in the last twenty minutes was brilliant. It felt like Tannadice should and it was great to hear some of the lesser heard songs getting a run out as we made our way out of the ground and into the queue for tickets.

United are more than capable of securing their place in the playoff final. Let’s make it happen, let’s back the team and let’s turn Tannadice into a sea of tangerine tomorrow night.

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Match Preview – Dundee United vs Livingston

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Saturday’s game against Livingston is even being played. For United the focus is now the playoffs (okay we still need a result to guarantee 3rd) and for Livi it will be a case of party mode as they can relax in the knowledge that they have a bit of time off before they face Dunfermline in the second round of the playoffs (see what I did there?).

As soon as I published my last match preview I knew that I had pretty much guaranteed United losing the game in Dumfries. It was full of positives and praise for the players who had started to show grit, desire and determination. Amazing then that this all seemed to disappear and at the most important time. I am all for questioning Csaba Laszlo and his managerial capabilities but last Saturday was all on the players. They made the errors, they suddenly lost any drive they had in previous games and they were the ones who let us down YET AGAIN.

The match against Livingston is an absolute non-event. Should the manager play the youngsters? Should he use it as a way of testing the team he would like to start in the playoffs? Either way the atmosphere on Saturday will be completely flat and it will be a pretty meaningless game of football. We don’t have long to wait until the first playoff matches but my worry is that most United supporters (myself included) seem totally nonplussed by the whole scenario. I am absolutely behind the team in terms of wanting them to achieve but it does feel as though there is an inevitability about our failure to secure promotion for the second time in succession. Maybe I shouldn’t be so pessimistic and in many ways there is more depth to this squad compared to last season but the reality is this group of players have a track record for falling short when the pressure is really on.

A short match preview for a match short on excitement. Maybe by Sunday I will be in a better place to go full steam ahead for the playoffs. Hopefully the United players will feel the same. If we do fall at the first hurdle then I suppose we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that you would expect some major reshuffling at the club to start pretty soon after the last ball is kicked.

Match Review – Livingston vs Dundee United – 23/02/18

Anyone remember the 2nd of January? That was the day we won against Brechin. It was also our last league victory. Tonight’s game against Livingston was very much a case of last chance saloon. We faced a team who have shown everyone that with a decent team spirit and a huge amount of determination you can achieve great things. Livingston are basically what Dundee United look like in an alternate universe.

I travelled through to the game utterly convinced that we would at least see something different. A different shape to our team, a different approach to our play and maybe even a different attitude. More fool me. It was apparent that even just a few minutes into the game that we had reverted to type and that our rigid 4231 with Scott McDonald as the lone striker was again going to show everyone that we are indeed a team without any real identity. We don’t have the personnel to play any kind of football that has any real purpose. Long ball? We have a team full of midgets with one or two ‘physical’ players with no presence. Neat and intricate football? We don’t have the players good enough to pull that off. When things do then invariably fall apart we are left with a group of individuals who after the first Livingston goal all started pointing at each other as if nobody knew exactly who was doing what.

Csaba Laszlo has inherited a poor squad. He has also signed some poor players. The role of Darren Taylor in all of this has to be questioned but it is clear that this group are simply not good enough to navigate their way out of the championship. What is also now beginning to show is Laszlo’s own frailties as manager of this group of players.

Tonight was, in many ways, the perfect game to highlight the differences between what happens when a club starts to get things right and a club that is now stuck in a spiral of poor decisions and one that has a poisonous atmosphere surrounding it. Yes we played pretty well for a 20 minute spell in the second half, yes we were moments away from a point (and close to snatching all three) but to be honest did we deserve anything out of the game? Probably not. Livingston were a better team and the word ‘team’ is the absolute factor in all of this. We are not a team at the moment and we are miles away from resembling one.

Weeks ago it was a case of trying to work out exactly what had to happen and when for us to win the league. Now? I can’t be the only one looking at what we need to even scrape a playoff spot?

Dundee United Player Ratings – 

25. Harry Lewis – 4 – Needed to be dropped for tonight’s game and wasn’t. He is a young goalkeeper having a confidence crisis and the manager needs to protect him by moving him aside for the time being.

2. Stewart Murdoch 4 – Showed a bit of determination in the second half but still major flaws in his game defensively. Could have won the game for United at the death.

4. Mark Durnan – 4 – I’ve been a defender of Durnan and he was important in the first half but faded badly in the second. At fault for the the winner?

3. Tam Scobbie – 4 – On paper he makes the defence much more balanced but he is missing a yard of pace and isn’t sharp enough at the moment.

17. Jamie Robson – 3 – Should not be in the team and even if Brandon Mason isn’t up to much it is time to give Robson some time on the bench.

16. Willo Flood – 5 – He obviously cares and he does his running about the pitch routine to prove it but he isn’t dominant enough to impact on games in the way he should be.

24. Grant Gillespie – 3 – Very disappointing from someone who should have been out to impress in his first game in his preferred position. Poor.

58. Emil Lyng – 2 – I’m always keen to give players a chance but he definitely does not have any real redeeming features. No loss after he went off injured. 

12. Sam Stanton – 6 – Still our best player but was shoved out wide for some of the first half and then was forced to sit deep for most of the second.

11. Billy King – 4 – A typical performance from King, showed flashes of promise but offers nothing in other areas of the game.

8. Scott McDonald – 4 – Felt a little sorry for McDonald in the first half being isolated upfront with the giant Livi defenders surrounding him. Didn’t impact the game once we changed shape.

Subs – 7.Paul McMullan (3) – Brought on too late. 28.Matty Smith (6) – Best United player in the second half (and possibly over the course of the game). Really positive on the ball and showed good strength. 9.Thomas Mikkelsen (4) – To be fair to him he ran the channels quite well but still missing real quality in front of goal.

Man of the Match – Matty Smith. The youngster showed up the older pros by coming on and displayed determination and positivity on the ball. Deserves a run in the team ahead of some of his teammates. 

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Next Fixture – Two games at Tannadice next week and it could be a very, very difficult few days for the club. No doubt the attendances will dwindle and up first we have Queen of the South on Tuesday night. Fail to win that one and it could be embarrassing by the time we face St.Mirren on the Friday.

 

Match Preview – Livingston vs Dundee United

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King.

When is hope a bad thing? When Dundee United are involved. The St.Mirren scoreline from last Saturday has at least managed to stir up a little bit of interest in a season that looked like ending in inevitable disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, it probably still will, but it does make the next 3 games a bit more interesting.

Part of me has really enjoyed the relaxed last couple of weekends without league football to worry about but Dundee United now have three games in a week starting with the visit to Livingston on Friday. We play Queen of the South next Tuesday and then St.Mirren in an all or nothing game at Tannadice live on BT Sport. By the time we face the Buddies it could be either a case of a miracle being possible or it could provide the final nail in the title coffin. The other added intrigue to this mix is that Livingston themselves will have genuine hope of having a say in this title race. They come in to Friday’s game in great form and will be very confident of taking points from United. Their fantastic result against St.Mirren proves that they are a genuinely good team who work incredibly hard for one another and are very difficult to beat. The Livingston side are the complete opposite to the United one in that they are strong, physical, well organised and know how to grind out results.

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We are all hoping that a break from league duties has revitalised Csaba Laszlo’s squad. Additional work on the training ground has eased some injury worries which means we at least have more flexibility in the team selection. Now is the time for United to step up to the plate and have a right good go. You would hope that they must be able to motivate themselves for this incredibly important run of fixtures.

The squad news is, as I mentioned, a little bit more positive and we should see the return of either Paul Quinn, Tam Scobbie or William Edjenguele. There may also be a place in the squad for Jordie Briels but the likelihood is that the game on Friday probably comes a little too soon for him. Personally I would like to see one or two changes and maybe a change of shape but Csaba Laszlo may disagree! I think that Harry Lewis needs a rest and that we should be giving Deniz Mehmet an opportunity. Hopefully Tam Scobbie is fit enough to play because he is probably the best option we have to play alongside Mark Durnan. Ideally Grant Gillespie should be moved into central midfield and it would be good to start with two out-and-out strikers. With Livingston playing a more structured brand of football I wonder if we might start with two target men upfront in order to counter their physical presence.

My team against Livingston would be –

GK – Deniz Mehmet

 

RB – Stewart Murdoch

CB – Mark Durnan

CB – Tam Scobbie

LB – Jamie Robson

 

RM – Paul McMullan

CM – Grant Gillespie

CM – Sam Stanton

LM – Billy King

 

ST – Thomas Mikkelsen

ST – Scott McDonald

 

Subs – Harry Lewis, Cammy Ballantyne, Willo Flood, Craig Slater, Paul Quinn, Emil Lyng, Matty Smith.

Key Player – Scott McDonald  I’ve been very critical of McDonald and I still don’t really trust him. There have been some rumours of a falling out between the management and the veteran striker so maybe Friday is an opportunity for him to prove his worth. He can still be a match winner on his day.

Scottish Championship Mid-Term Report Card – Livingston

I’ve been looking forward to this. Every team I have written about so far seems to have an underlying tone of negativity. Not here. Not at the Toni Macaroni Arena. Livingston won the 2016/17 League One title at a canter so had time and space to plan for this immediate return to Championship football. Spirits were already high coming in to this campaign and David Hopkin has now been in charge for two years so knows the club well and knows what to do to get the best out of his players. imgID129635145His managerial record is pretty fantastic and this season has seen a few admiring glances from sides who have parted company with their own managers. At the moment though he is fully focused on continuing Livingston’s very impressive season. Livi have been there or there abouts all campaign and they are still within touching distance of the top despite a couple of slight falters recently. The fans have been delighted with what they have seen this season and it has been great to see as an outsider. Of all the supporters in the division the Livi lot have the freedom to enjoy their season and what it might bring. Enjoyment is a luxury that most football fans don’t have! Since week seven Hopkin’s men have not been out of the playoff spots and you would think that if they replicate even some of their early form after January then they will comfortably end the season in the top four.

One slight concern for fans given the season they have had will be the potential for this team to be ripped apart. How often do we see teams doing well and then losing half a dozen players? Currently there are over 15 who are out of contract in the summer.  That is a huge number and some are already attracting interest, like the team captain Craig Halkett. It is the price of success and unfortunately Livingston are a club that, in the long term, cannot compete financially with others in the division and in the Premiership. It means that as a club they can give a platform for young, talented players but they know that they might lose those them after a short while. Of course most Livingston supporters have been through pretty much anything and everything you can experience supporting a football club so none of this will come as too much of a shock to them.

January Wishlist – The real focus in January is to try and extend some of the contracts that are expiring and to be able to hold on to some of the players that have been attracting interest. They can do with adding a little bit of depth here and there with upfront being a priority (but it is for pretty much every team in the league). They have already missed out on a striker, Nathan Austin, due to another team offering a better financial package so they will have to be patient this month. The loan market has proved useful and could be another avenue to explore. Today they have moved to sign Jordan Thompson on loan from Rangers. 

Player of the Season (so far) – Take your pick. Spoiled for choice here especially in the defensive areas given Livingston’s organisational strength. JS131342737Midfielder Scott Pittman is a perfect foil in front of the defence in terms of breaking things up but my pick comes in the shape of captain fantastic Craig Halkett. The 22-year old leads out Livingston every week and looks every bit the part. Many reckon he could be the best defender in the league and it looks a certainty that he will move on sooner rather than later. He should go on to have a very good career.

Predicted Finish – 3rd. Momentum is massive and if Livi can hold on to the core of their team and not lose any players due to expiring contracts then they should be good enough to finish in the top four. They know what to expect in the second half of the season and they know that they can compete against every team in the division. Securing important results and edging out teams like Dunfermline and Morton will be vital but everything will come down to not losing key players.

Manager Grade – A. Can’t really say anything negative about Hopkin. Along with Stevie Aitken at Dumbarton and Jack Ross at St.Mirren you could make a case for him being the best manager in the division at the moment. He will have a decision to make in the near future because the chances are he will be offered an opportunity at a bigger team soon. He would probably benefit from another season at Livingston but if his squad gets decimated in the summer then he would be within his right to seek out a fresh challenge.

Overall Grade – A. Definitely the success story of the year so far. A team punching above its weight on the pitch they have managed to surprise everyone and may well get the reward at the end of it all by playing an important role in the title race if they can hold on to their players. Fans must be delighted that after such a turbulent few years they can finally enjoy their football on the pitch and it certainly seems that the board are doing a pretty good job at ensuring the future of Livingston (although the exact picture isn’t totally clear). The stadium ownership is still an uncertainty that long-term might need a solution and the board will also have a decision to make in the coming months; what next? Do they push and try to challenge again next season? The focus might be more about stability and ensuring that the club becomes a competitive Championship side with a clear plan and clear budget. One thing they do need to start doing, in my opinion, is offering players longer deals with more security and possibly sell-on clauses or future payments so that they do not lose players for nothing.