Dundee United defender Mark Connolly believes there’s no reason why they can’t finish in the top six this season under the guidance of boss Micky Mellon.
United made it three matches unbeaten as Nicky Clark’s stoppage-time strike rescued a point against Motherwell at Tannadice on Saturday to keep Mellon’s men fifth in the Premiership standings.
Connolly was quick to praise the Terrors’ gaffer for the influence he’s had at Tannadice in testing times for football and people the world over with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Irish centre-half believes what the former Tranmere boss has achieved so far is only the start for a Tangerines team on the up as they prepare to travel to champions Celtic on Wednesday night.
“It’s been difficult with him coming in in the middle of all this stuff going on and he’s probably not had a chance to bring in as many players as he wants or boys he knows in systems he’s played before,” the 29-year-old said.
“However, he’s come in and hasn’t complained, he’s got on with it and I think he’s set the boys up really well.
“We all know our jobs, it’s plain and simple – he’s not tried to make it too complicated.
“We’re staying in games, grinding out results and, like on Saturday, that’s probably a game we could’ve ended up losing by two, three or four.
“We want to keep pushing up the table. We’re not going to take it for granted – we know that it will be difficult with a few games like Celtic and Aberdeen away coming up.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we will keep picking up points and grinding way.
“It’s a learning curve and it’s a time for adapting – I know some people don’t want to hear that but it’s the truth.
“I think we’re missing the fans and their backing. It can make a big difference but I take my hat off to the boys playing in the Premiership for the first time because they’ve done well and it’s been difficult.
“We’ve just go to keep going, looking up and not be wary of what’s over our shoulder.
“We want to stay in that top six because, the way we’re going right now, there’s no reason why we can’t.”
United have taken the leash off in the final third
Mellon and his side have come in for some flak for their style of play this season, with United the joint-third lowest scorers in the division.
However, they have managed to find their back four times in the last three games and Connolly – a crucial part of a strong Terrors defence – believes they are turning a corner at the top end of the pitch.
He added: “It’s a confidence thing. I think the manager, at times, has been a little more defensive-minded and we needed to weather some storms when confidence was low.
“We’ve needed to galvanise each other to get results, which we did, and I think now we’ve taken the leash off a little bit.
“The wingers have come in – Paul (McMullan) and Luke (Bolton) – and done really well and Sparky (Marc McNulty) and (Lawrence) Shankland scored the other day.
“Clarky scoring on Saturday means it’s looking good and we need to keep that up.
“We’ve got two really tough games coming up but all we can do is keep banging away at it.
“We’re doing well to be top six just after Christmas and I think if you’d asked us that at the start of the season we’d have taken that.
“We’re all here to try to do well for Dundee United. We get frustrated when we lose, we get frustrated when we play bad but we just want to get results.
“That’s all we can do and focus on, not worrying too much about the noise from the outside.
“I think we’ve done that.
“This is a tough period with the games I think we’ve done well, played well, given everything for the cause and picking up points to stay in fifth.
“We’re in the top six and all we can do is keep fighting for points. It’s our first year back in the Premiership after four away and I think, so far, we’ve given a really good account of ourselves.”