Dundee United v Inverness: ‘One match at a time’

Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara. Picture: SNS
Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara. Picture: SNS
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DUNDEE United manager Jackie McNamara insists his side will not get carried away with their recent run of fine form ahead of tonight’s Scottish Premiership clash with St Johnstone at Tannadice.

United are on a roll with five straight wins under their belts and have a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final to look forward to after beating Inverness 5-0 in last Sunday’s quarter-final tie.

Their next test comes in the form of Tommy Wright’s Saints and McNamara knows his side will not get ahead of themselves.

McNamara said: “We’ll just be treating this game as we do any other one. We’re on a good run right now but won’t be taking anything for granted. Even when we were on that good run before Christmas we didn’t get too high and that will be the same this time. We won’t be looking too far ahead between now and the end of the season.

“It’s just one game at a time as far as we’re concerned and giving St Johnstone our full focus is what we’ll be doing.”

United face either Rangers or Albion Rovers in the cup semi-final but McNamara maintains they will not let their attention turn towards that last-four tie until nearer the time.

He said: “We can think of that when the time comes. But, in the meantime, we’re thinking of the league and trying to keep things going. It’s great to be in the 
semi-final of the cup and it’s all credit to the players. But we have a very tough league match on Wednesday night which will get our full attention.

“St Johnstone are never easy opponents and we know it will be a very tough 90 minutes,” added McNamara who, nevertheless is optimistic about his side’s chances.

He said: “The lads can go into it confident, as we believe we can beat anyone on our day. We have to stick to doing what we’re good at and, hopefully, get another positive result.

“It’s nice when things are going well and you want to continue that for as long as possible.”

United teenager Ryan Gauld could be back in the squad after missing out through injury in recent weeks. Gauld has been laid low by a hip problem but is back in contention for the first team.

Defender John Souttar is still out with an Achilles injury, while on-loan Newcastle defender Curtis Good is out for around four to six weeks with a hip strain he picked up while playing for Australia against 
Ecuador in a friendly last week.

Wright has also told his St Johnstone players to forget about the prospect of cup glory to continue in their quest for a top-six finish.

On Sunday, the Perth club were drawn to face Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-finals next month.

Saints were beaten 4-0 by the Dons in a League Cup semi-final at Tynecastle at the end of January and, inevitably, there will be talk of revenge in the coming weeks as the McDiarmid Park side get another chance to win the first major trophy in the club’s history.

However, Wright is focused only on remaining in the top half of the table. His side are in sixth place, nine points behind Inverness, who have played a game fewer, and two points ahead of Hibernian, who have played a game more.

“No matter who came out of the hat it would have been a tough draw and we just have to deal with that when it comes around,” said the Northern Irishman. “But I haven’t given it much thought other than we can do better against Aberdeen.

“Our focus is on the league and that is all I will concentrate on until that comes around. We must cement that top-six place and it is getting tough.

“So we just cannot have any thoughts about the cup. Our only focus is league games and trying to get in the top-six.

“One or two wins for us will make a big difference. We have to try to pick up as many points as possible at this stage of the season.

“The next game is the most important one. Hopefully, we will go to Dundee United and get something.”

Saints lost 4-0 at Tannadice last August before beating United 3-0 at McDiarmid Park in December.

However, Wright is aware that McNamara’s side, sitting in fourth place, are back on top form as they demonstrated in such clear-cut fashion against Inverness in the cup on Sunday.

Wright said: “It is going to be a difficult game but we know if we go about it in the right manner we can get a result.

“They have a lot of quality players and if they perform on the day then that can cause you problems.

“They allow their front four a bit of interaction and movement and they are quite fluid, but on the other hand, we have enough players in our squad to hurt teams as well.

“If we can get two wins, with the advantage we have over Hibs, it makes it even more 
difficult for them so every win is vital.”