For Dundee United, this season’s Betfred Cup looks all but over but don’t trying telling stand-in skipper Stewart Murdoch the final two group fixtures are meaningless.
The 28-year-old knows today’s Tannadice clash with Alloa and next week’s trip to Elgin will be vital games as the Tangerines work to make sure they are a force in the coming Championship campaign.
And while the ties so far against Arbroath and Ross County have ended in disappointment in terms of results, he believes they provided proof they’re heading in the right direction.
“I think the thing is it’s really early doors and the manager will tell you we are still building, that’s maybe why we haven’t had the results we wanted,” he said.
“We are still basically in a pre-season phase, so, for us, Tuesday was a really good competitive game up at County and gave us an opportunity to see exactly where we are right now.
“It was another 90 minutes for the lads together and to help get to know each other. When you get the penalty at 0-0 and late on, if you score you probably go on and see out the game.
“We didn’t and it was disappointing to lose but at the same time everybody could see the other night that already we can compete and we can take that forward. Now we move on to the next game.”
And that need to be ready for next month’s league kick-off against Dunfermline means, for Murdoch and his team-mates, the next two outings are massive.
“It will be difficult to qualify from our group now but we will take every game the same way we’ve always done and that’s as big ones.
“We probably need to win both games now to have any chance and that’s what we’ll aim to do.
“And they are another two big games leading into the start of the season in the Championship. We can get match sharpness and we will have another few boys who’ve had wee injuries back available.
“It’s also another opportunity as well for the gaffer to maybe tinker with the team a bit and get boys some game time.”
And, despite what the Betfred group table suggests, his belief this rebuilt United side is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the second tier, is growing.
“I think everyone is confident we are building a good team and the manager will be wanting a few more players – I’m sure he’d said that.
“I think the more good players we add the better we’ll play and the more we play together the better we’ll become.
“It gave us confidence going to a place like County and competing the way we did. It was a good performance, it was just the result that was poor.
“We are all excited about the season ahead and I think it’s going to be a positive one.”
In the absence of newly-appointed club captain Fraser Fyvie, who’s likely to be out for another month or so as he completes his recovery from knee surgery at the turn of the year, the games so far have seen Murdoch wear the captain’s armband.
Well aware of United’s history and some of the greats who’ve undertaken the role, he regards even having it on a temporary basis as a big feather in his cap.
“I was captain a couple of times towards the end of last season and to be handed it again while Fraser is still out is nice,” he added.
“This is a massive club, so to lead Dundee United out in any game is a huge honour for me.”