Not by any stretch of the imagination could anyone describe this season in the Championship as a lucky one for Dundee United.
There is no question that, to date, the Tangerines’ overall performance has not lived up to expectations.
They were, after all, red-hot favourites for automatic promotion before a ball was kicked and even now their squad has the look of one that should have been too strong for the other nine teams in their division.
As well as under-performing, however, there’s no doubt bad breaks have played a part in their problems.
Injuries to influential players at key times were a major factor in what looked a strong challenge for top spot falling apart after Christmas.
And a string of postponements did nothing to help their bid to regain some momentum in the first three months of the year.
While their own depressing result may not have made it immediately apparent, at the weekend United did get a major slice of good fortune.
It didn’t come at Palmerston where a three-game winning run was coming to a crashing end via a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Queen of the South, but 234 miles away in Inverness.
Five minutes into injury time at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, Nicky Clark’s 21st goal of the season that earned Dunfermline a 2-2 draw and a big point against Caley Thistle, was huge for United, too.
Without it, they might have been going into Saturday’s clash with Livingston needing a win to be sure of making the play-offs. Thanks to Clark’s late header, however, Csaba Laszlo’s team now know they definitely have a route back to the Premiership via those post-season fixtures. It’s up to them to make the most of that.
For the second season running they will be attempting to do things in the hardest possible way — negotiating six strength-sapping and highly- pressurised games. That remains a far better prospect than facing the possibility of packing their bags for the summer after the visit of Livi.
As they prepare for the first two-leg tie next week, almost certainly against Dunfermline, United will have to perform way better than they did against the Doonhamers.
That 3-0 loss has to serve as a reminder the improvement shown in the trio of wins before it may have represented a step in the right direction, but what it wasn’t was an indication all the problems of the past few months had been solved.
As encouraging as wins over St Mirren, Falkirk and Brechin were, the circumstances of each one should have told them that.
United faced the Buddies when the they were understandably on edge as they sought the single point needed to secure automatic promotion.
They then met a Falkirk team that although mathematically could still have been dragged into relegation trouble, realistically knew they were safe. The truth about Brechin was that if a five-goal margin was more than expected, victory against a side that’s not won a single league game all season, was a must.
Therefore, disappointing as Saturday was, it could not be listed as one of the big shocks of the season. Since the turn of the year United have had the bad habit of losings every two or three games, so this was no more than an unwelcome return to type.
For once they got away with it. Promotion remains a possibility and if United take nothing for granted and show the right attitude, a happy end to a campaign that’s had more misery than joy, could be on the cards.