It looks to have come too late, so far as automatic promotion goes, but midfielder Calum Butcher believes Dundee United are now showing they are the best team in the Championship.
The Englishman believes that has to put them is a good place if, as is likely, they’ll be heading for the Premiership play-offs next month.
The Tangerines’ chances of finishing the regular campaign in top spot have been left hanging by a thread after the heartache of losing an injury-time equaliser at leaders Ross County on Friday night.
With just four games to go for United, it left the gap at the top of the table at five points and the Staggies can stretch that to eight when they take on Dunfermline in their game in hand tonight.
As frustrating as events in Dingwall were, however, Butcher is remaining positive and believes the team are definitely heading in the right direction.
“I do think we are the best team in the league now and we do have the best players, I don’t think you can argue with that and we are now starting to gel the way we want to,” said the 28-year-old.
“We set up the best way, we play the best football but the games are coming to an end and we’re trying to get on the run we need.
“It was always a tough task starting from January but there is no way we will give up now and we will keep going and working hard to get to where we should be.
“We are starting to understand each, we are playing the style of football we want and it’s gelling. The results haven’t come at times but the performances are getting better and we have to take that positive because that is what will get us the wins.”
Butcher does concede what must be added to encouraging displays like the one on Friday is a ruthless touch in front of goal.
Since November, United have not won a league game by more than a one-goal margin and having to defend slender leads finally caught up with them against County.
“Ultimately we have to kill teams off when we’re on top. That’s why Ross County are top of the league because they do and we haven’t done that enough this season.
“Up there it was really disappointing to concede a goal so late in the game when we’d been in control for so long.
“It happens in football and you just need to take it on the chin.
“We created so many chances, as we have done in most of our games, but we need to kill off teams. We didn’t do that on Friday and 100% we have paid the price. We said that in the dressing-room after the game.
“After we’ve gone ahead we had a couple of great chances before half-time and second half when we were breaking on them we had a few more.
“We have to start taking them because you can’t be putting yourself in a situation again and again where you have to hang on in games you should be winning by a few goals because you’ve dominated.
“There are always going to be stages in games where you have to defend and it’s important you make the most of the periods when you’re on top and we are having plenty.”
While he accepts the play-offs are now likely, so long as it is mathematically possible to finish first, he will not give up the chase.
Even if County can’t be caught it’s important United play well and win the next four games.
“Friday night is a massive game against Ayr because we could end up playing them in the play-offs.
“We want to make sure we finish second and three points on Friday would be a big step towards that.
“We need to keep in touch with Ross County because they are going to drop points. If they do we can still put pressure on them, even if the games are running down.”