If Dundee United are searching for positives in light of their third game in four without a victory, a run that has seen them drop eight points behind league leaders St Mirren, they could do worse than find inspiration from the recent turnaround in fortunes enjoyed by Saturday’s hosts.
It’s almost a month to the day since Dunfermline lost 1-0 in Paisley, a defeat which stretched their winless run to seven matches in the league and heaped further pressure on manager Allan Johnston. The once title-hopefuls had regressed to mid-table fodder and there seemed little sign of them being able to pull out of the tailspin.
Fast forward to Saturday, and while they didn’t get the victory their play deserved against a United side desperate to atone for the 6-1 hammering at Falkirk the week before, they at least kept the rejuvenation going, as the 0-0 draw made it ten points taken from a possible 12. It also represented a third successive clean sheet, something which seemed highly improbable earlier in the campaign.
The barren spell all but ended their hopes of winning the title as they now sit 15 points from the summit, but with the play-offs offering an alternative route into the Premiership, there is reason to be confident again at East End Park.
“I think we have stuck together and kept believing because we know the quality we have in the team,” said Nat Wedderburn when asked to explain how he and his team-mates have managed to salvage their promotion bid. “We are confident of beating anyone in this league. Maybe Dundee United’s result last week wasn’t ideal for us because we knew they would try and come here and prove a point, but it was unfortunate we couldn’t get the win.
“We will keep going, there are a lot of games still to play. I think the play-offs are the minimum we are aiming for. We have St Mirren in a couple of weeks and if we can get a win there you never know what might happen.”
Undoubtedly, United were much improved on their shambolic performance in Falkirk, but they still huffed and puffed for a lot of this encounter. Emil Lyng, pictured, had one of the game’s better chances, a free header that he directed over from eight yards, but the majority of them fell for the home side.
The Danish forward was one of two recent signings starting for United – Craig Slater the other – and with manager Csaba Laszlo admitting they are looking to recruit further before the January window closes, it means the players, old and new, will have to adapt to each other on the fly as the Tannadice club search for a run of wins to put themselves back into serious contention.
“We’ve been really unlucky with injuries, you’ve got to say,” said goalkeeper Harry Lewis. “We don’t want to make excuses, but when you lose Fraser Fyvie and Scott Fraser, who are probably our best players, that does hurt any team. We’re bedding in a few new lads at the moment, so we need to wait and see how they settle in.
“We’re still not panicking, I don’t think. The manager stayed very calm in the dressing-room. Obviously, we know the task in hand now. It’s time to put a run together now and really cut out any complacency and be the dangerous Dundee United that we know we can be going forward, and be as solid at the back as we were on Saturday.
“The gap’s eight points now but this is the sort of league where anybody can beat anybody. I think we all need to still stay calm and just focus on what we’re doing. We need to get the results first and then we can worry about St Mirren.”