Mark Connolly believes, mentally, the Premiership play-off semi-final against Inverness Caley Thistle will be more difficult for Dundee United than if they reach the final next week.
The defender’s logic is simple – at this stage it’s two teams fighting for a prize, whereas the Premiership team that’s involved will be battling to avoid a disaster.
And, for all it’s generally accepted this series of games is designed to help the top-flight side stay up, the Irishman believes that fact gives the second tier outfits an edge.
“I was captain of Kilmarnock when they were in the play-offs from the other end, as a Premiership team,” said the Irishman.
“I was unfortunate enough to be injured and missed the games but being the top-flight team in the play-offs wasn’t nice.
“For me, as well being captain of the club and injured was very frustrating and difficult.
“It’s a lot more positive this time with United because you are thinking about what you can achieve.
“If we can pull it off, the fans will be absolutely delighted, they will be buzzing and there will be great celebrations.
“Of course, Inverness will feel the same as us and that, in itself, makes the games against them tough because we’re both playing for a big prize.”
Positive is very much the feeling in the United dressing-room going into tonight’s clash in the Highlands.
Despite missing out on automatic promotion, Connolly insists the circumstances of the campaign have meant it was not a massive blow.
“We were six points behind in January and, with the amount of signings we made, it was hard getting everyone to click at the right time. One of the big things is we reached a point where we understood the play-offs were probably going to be a more realistic route and we have been focusing on that recently.
“It means we are excited more than disappointed and that is important because we should be going into these games thinking about what a great opportunity they are for us.
“We have some good experience and some very good young players and, with that mix, it’s an exciting time and we are really looking forward to it.”
And Connolly is in no doubt that, of all the teams involved in the post-season process, Robbie Neilson’s Tangerines are the ones that have shown most improvement over the second half of the season.
“We are a team on the up. We have shown that and, mentally, we’ve come on. There have been a few hoodoo games the lads had before Christmas, when they struggled against certain teams, that we’ve now won in the past couple of months and that’s a big positive.
“And we have to be confident and look to enjoy these ties because, when you are like that going into games, that’s when you play well.”
On a personal level, Connolly will be giving his all to get to the top flight. He rates the Championship highly but his reason for returning north of the border from Crawley Town was to get another taste of life in the Premiership.
“Every player in Scotland wants to play in the Premiership and, if you have the opportunity to get there, you have to take it with both hands.
“As a football club, we have the opportunity to get back to the Premiership and, while it’s going to be tough, we are excited and happy to be in that position.
“We’ve got a very, very good chance to get there and we are all up for it.
“Obviously, it’s not going to be easy because the other teams involved want to be playing there next season as well but we feel we have the quality to get through these games successfully.”