Dundee United centre-back Mark Connolly could be in line for his first start in over two months in Friday’s derby at Dens Park.
However, the 27-year-old will have his work cut out to displace the backline that defended so solidly in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Inverness (see video below).
At the weekend, Connolly made his return to first-team duties from the bench since tearing his hamstring in the last derby, a 6-2 win over rivals Dundee, on August 30.
And boss Robbie Neilson says he could be ready for a starting spot at Dens on Friday.
He said: “Mark has a reserve game tomorrow but we felt it was a good opportunity with a few minutes to go to get him out there and get him some first-team game time.
“If he comes back in again, he’s had that bit of a test on his hamstring.
“He’s trained magnificently and I think he’s in the best condition I’ve ever seen him, even when he was a kid at Kilmarnock. He’s really looking after himself and has been a great example to everyone so we just wanted to get him back on the pitch.”
Goals from strikers Nicky Clark and Lawrence Shankland added to a first-half own goal by Caley Thistle defender Shaun Rooney as United racked up an impressive 3-0 victory in the Highlands.
The goalscorers may get the plaudits but the Tannadice gaffer was delighted with the work done by his backline, giving Connolly some work to do to earn back his starting spot.
Robbie added: “When you go to a place like Inverness, the backline is the most important thing for you.
“Inverness put the ball up to Jordan White right on top of your back four and it can be easy to drop off. But I thought our two centre-backs and full-backs kept the game nice and tight which allowed us to get pressure on the midfield. That allowed us to push on.”
Caley Thistle boss John Robertson felt Shankland could have been red-carded in the first half for an elbow on Jamie McCart.
He said: “The assistant is standing 10 yards away and should have seen a clear elbow. It’s a tangle and maybe Lawrence is trying to free himself but, accidental or not, he has caught him with his elbow.”
Robbie said: “Shanks has just tried to barge him back out of the way. The linesman was 10 yards away and the ref 15 yards away. The swarming of the referee blows everything out of proportion.”