James McPake is looking forward to Friday night’s home match against the league leaders. He maintains that all games are big games and Dundee United just happen to be the first of what will be five consecutive home games:-
“Every game is big and the next one is your biggest. It seems like a while since Ayr United were here the last time. It’s a big month for the football club. We want to start the home run well, go out and perform in front of our own fans.
“We have a game plan to go out and play against them. Look, they’re a good team, they’re 12 unbeaten in the league and they’re top of the league on merit because they’ve been the most consistent team off the back of coming down – and that’s not easy. We’ve seen clubs come down before and it takes a while to get them going. So credit to them, they’ve got themselves going particularly after what would have been, in their eyes, a poor Viaplay Cup group stage. They’ve been very good in the league, very consistent and they’ve got some good players. We know it’s going to be a tough game, we just need to concentrate on ourselves.”
Dunfermline came close to inflicting defeat on United in August when it took a 95th minute goal from Mathew Cudjoe to rescue a point when the team met at Tannadice. Dundee United are undefeated in the cinch Championship but they have drawn four of their twelve matches and the Pars manager takes heart from that but acknowledged that every game is different:-
“A few teams have taken points off them – Airdrie drew up there, Inverness got a good result at Tannadice at the weekend. That game [against Dunfermline] was so long ago now. There is different personnel in both teams, different threats in both teams, so I think they’ll be looking at our last couple of games and, likewise, we’ll be looking at their last couple of games in a way that we can put up a good performance and get a positive result.”
A good start is always important in matches but as much as he would like it, James conceded that a start like the one against Morton last Friday is unlikely:-
“I’ve had 140-odd games as a manager and I don’t think we’ve ever scored a goal that quick! I’m not naïve enough to think that’s going to happen every week. There’s 95 minutes. Yes we started quickly at Morton but for a lot of that game we weren’t great. We need to get the consistency in our performance. It was decent against Raith Rovers and then you get three points away to Morton – I’d have taken that regardless of how we played. This is a new game and we just need to be right from minute one to minute whatever-they-go-to-now – it’s 97 sometimes.”
James termed last Friday’s performance as “mixed”:-
“I don’t think we were great, if I’m honest. After starting the game really well, we allowed Morton back into it a bit easily. It’s a really tough place to go and get points – or get maximum points, anyway. It is a team in a false position, in my opinion. They have got a decent team, they are well experienced in that league with an experienced manager.. but off the back of three defeats and going to a tough venue, I think we did deserve the points but we made hard work of it in the end.”
Squad for Friday
“Matty Todd will come into the squad. He was touch and go last week, he probably just hadn’t done enough in terms of load in training. We opted to top him up, Kane Ritchie-Hosler (pictured above) had done a little bit more. Kane and Matty are in the squad, other than that, it should be unchanged. It’s a boost having those two, they have another week of training in them as well.
“Sam Fisher is fine and I thought he was excellent. I know I said that post-match, but the back three and Deniz were excellent in the Morton game, withstanding a lot of late pressure.”
The injury list therefore is one of three players – Andrew Tod, Kyle Benedictus and Rhys Breen. The manager updated their situations:-
“Andrew Tod isn’t back training. He’s nursing his knee and we’ll just take our time with that and get him right. Apart from that it’s unchanged. Kyle and Rhys are working away. They’ll not make this game, but I wouldn’t like to put a date on it. I don’t know the date, if I’m honest. They’re working away and doing wee bits and pieces. Thigh injury for Kyle, hamstring for Rhys.”
Reserved for Friday
Some were looking for Kyle Ritchie-Hosler and Matty Todd (pictured above) in the reserves line up on Tuesday against Dundee but James explained his thinking about that:-
“I think, in terms of with there being a game on Friday and a game on Tuesday, there’s still plenty time to recover, but then you are missing a lot of time on the training pitch because they’re preparing for a game on Monday and they’re away the Tuesday then recovering on the Wednesday when we could have them for the three days here.
“It’s different for ones coming back, Benedictus being a bit older and, he’ll not mind me saying it, there’s not many as naturally fit as Kane or Matty. They’re probably beyond the point of needing to go into a reserve game unless we had no game. It was beneficial for both of them to be here, we could then work them really hard over the weekend as well. It was a decision I made and one I stand by.”