It's crunch time at the bottom end of the table as Inverness travel to Dundee to take on basement boys United as we enter the Last Chance saloon.
An almost surreal situation where we could still make the top-six or face relegation in a season blighted by injuries, lack of signings, tactical disasters, late goals and worst of all, fan expectation after last season where finishing third in the table and lifting the Scottish Cup were the norm.
United may be at the foot of the table, but I doubt they are the worst team on current form and it would take a brave man to write them off as the great escape still awaits Mixu Paatelainen and his squad. I also doubt if Billy Mckay would want to see the word relegation on his CV again, having already been involved in Wigan's demise.
To be honest, it's quite a daunting task ahead for Yogi's side given our recent results. Defeat last week against Motherwell was disappointing when a freak goal and stoppage time breakaway confined us to zero points and all but killed off our top-six ambitions.
United played Partick in midweek and went down 1-0 to leave them with two wins in their last six league games. That's still better than us with one win in six, equalled by Hamilton and bettered by Kilmarnock with none. To be fair to Hamilton, they beat us for that win so that leaves Inverness as one of the contenders for the drop, make no mistake about it. The saving grace could be that we have accumulated seven more points than Killie, and three more than Accies with a superior goal difference over both. United are adrift a further five points worse off than Killie.
What can we expect tomorrow? I doubt very much that caution will be thrown to the wind hoping that an unlikely combination of results would catapult us to top half safety. We have struggled all season for one reason or another, but the bottom line is that we are in a dogfight now against other teams in a similar position. Don't expect any favours from any of them this weekend.
Andrea Mutombo was a bright spark last week but even his dazzling display could not ignite the players round about him. It was left to full back Carl Tremarco to try and stoke the embers and he almost managed that with two or three efforts that were close to giving Inverness all three points. However, our lack of penetration once more scuppered us as we let Motherwell off the hook and were caught with that very late sucker punch. Unfortunately, something that has happened too often this season.
The teams have met twice this season and both games ended all square. A 1-1 draw at Tannadice when who else but Billy Mckay put United ahead in the first half before a Josh Meekeings bullet header squared the game in the second. In the return fixture at Inverness, we had to rely on a stoppage time counter from Lewis Horner to get a point after coming from behind twice. Former players John Rankin and he scores when he wants Billy Mckay scored for United and Liam Polworth got our first, 2-2 the final score.
John Hughes has more players at his disposal than he has had all season so the injury excuses are starting to wear thin now. One mystery is surrounding David Raven who has been missing for large chunks of the season. It was reported a week or two ago that he was nearing fitness but he was not on the bench against Motherwell fuelling speculation that he is out of favour. Odd, considering our lack of natural right backs. James Vincent is another on the fringes, but that is less surprising with his and Danny Williams' pending departure for Dens Park at the season end. The main casualties are Aaron Doran and Dean Brill, although Brill has played for the development squad last week. Alex Fisher is another who has been out, but like most of the others he is reputed to be on the mend. Another mysterious omission is Jordan Roberts who looked to have a promising career ahead of him once he got over his injuries, but he too has fallen foul of the bench syndrome, being left there when he might have appeared to be a better attacking option than others. What I can tell you is that Greg Tansey is back after suspension and he will no doubt start against United.
The Arabs will be looking to bounce back after the setback at Firhill and defender Coll Donaldson is back after suspension. Mixu has a few knocks to contend with but he is keeping his squad ailments close to his chest.
tm4tj prediction:- We will do well to take anything from this game. United's urgency for points is greater than ours at this moment in time and that might just be enough to give them the edge. They will be backed by a large vociferous crowd for this one as they have been the last few games as their fans try to help them out, whilst our fans are busy looking for a successor to John Hughes. In Billy Mckay and Edward Ofere they have proven scorers at this level and that is a worry for our goal shy squad. We displayed some neat touches against Well, but the killer instinct is missing and that has been our downfall all season. We went looking for a winner, something that I doubt will happen on Saturday and I suspect Yogi will be content with a point. Survival at all costs even if that means missing out on top-six. Draw at best, but defeat is staring us in the face.
We still have the twice postponed Hearts game to play next Tuesday to conclude all games up to the dreaded split. The result of that one could be immaterial depending on the scores this weekend. I suppose it's fingers crossed for a draw at Dingwall and Hamilton beating Dundee. I'm not holding my breath to be honest. First and foremost we need to do the business at Tannadice then take it from there. It's a long shot, probably just too long for us now.