Stuart McCall has admitted that he is wary of a Dundee United side which may be out for vengeance this weekend.
The Steelmen have inflicted several of the Arabs’ most painful moments this season; knocking them out of the Co-operative Insurance Cup quarter-final and ensuring that they wouldn’t be making it two Scottish Cups on the trot by defeating Houston’s men at the same stage in that competition.
Indeed, the men in claret and amber have also beaten the Terrors twice in the league at Fir Park, so there’s every chance United will be relishing the prospect of revenge back in Tayside – and that’s something McCall is conscious of.
“Dundee United away is up there as one of the most difficult ones,” the ‘Well gaffer conceded. “We knocked them out of the cup, they were the holders, and they will be looking at revenge.
“It’s a tough place to go. I found that out in my second league game when we were beaten 2-0. We managed to put in a terrific performance in the cup and get 2-2 and get them back here.
“They’ve got some terrific players. Unfortunately for them they will be losing a few of them and they will want to go out on a high. It’s a really difficult game, but when we got into the split in sixth place we knew we were going to be playing five sides above us and we knew we were going to have some difficult games.”
There’s little doubt the Steelmen will have to improve immeasurably on last weekend’s performance against Rangers, which saw the Ibrox side fire five goals past a shell-shocked Motherwell.
The boss was typically honest in his post-match assessment that day, referring to the performance as ‘embarrassing.’ Seven days later, the defeat is still smarting – but he believes his side are ready to bounce back with a suitably positive performance at Tannadice.
He continued: “I’ve looked at the game again twice and my thoughts on the game then were the same as now; first half we more than matched Rangers in an even, competitive game. Once they got the second goal they lifted and got stronger, we looked a bit leg weary.
“The three goals they scored thereafter were terrific goals. There was nothing we could do about them. Naismith probably won’t score two goals in a game like that in his career.
“Sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up. I’ve said that – the second 45 we didn’t perform with any energy or zest and I think that might just have been off the back of a long season.
“But the group have done the club proud. From the European game, the CIS – they had a terrific run in that – and now the Scottish Cup final and finished in the top six. Yes, we’ve had blips on the way, but so does every team.”
McCall hopes that the odd ‘blip’ this season won’t cost his side a shot at fifth spot in the table. The former Bradford gaffer has pinpointed usurping Killie – who visit Fir Park for a crunch encounter on Wednesday evening – as the club’s remaining SPL target.
He knows it will be tough, but a positive result against United could be half the battle, with Kilmarnock having to face Celtic and Rangers as well as Motherwell in their final three matches.
“We’re under no illusions how difficult the games we’ve got are,” McCall said candidly. “We came into the split and we wanted to catch Kilmarnock.
“To do that now, with Kilmarnock getting a point against Hearts and assuming they are beaten by the Old Firm, we’ve got to beat Kilmarnock in the game on Wednesday. But because of the goal difference we also need to take another point. We’ll be looking to do that at Dundee United.”
The gaffer also confirmed that, for the moment, there was ‘nothing to report’ on the contract front, although he confirmed Steve Jennings agent would be visiting next week to discuss terms on a new deal.