As the early-season jockeying for position continues in a Championship that’s, so far, living up to predictions it will be the tightest for years, Dundee United can do themselves a lot of good by winning their next two games.
Even if the last league outing ended in the minor disappointment of a draw at Alloa, there’s no denying, since their early-campaign troubles in the Betfred Cup, the past few weeks have seen the Tangerines show steady signs of improvement.
The last three outings have produced two wins plus that draw and, in a division where after just four rounds of fixtures only one team, Inverness Caley Thistle, remains unbeaten, that can be put down as a decent run of form.
And, if United can extend that to five games without loss via victories over Morton at Tannadice this Saturday and at Falkirk a week later, there’s every chance they’ll be the form team in the second tier.
If that is so, it would be a case of good timing because at least two of the three games that will follow could prove to be among the most crucial of the campaign.
That run will see them come up against both Inverness and Ross County and, as tight as the table looks just now, it is significant the Highland pair currently occupy the top two positions.
Coming down from the Premiership and with the backing of mega-rich owner Roy McGregor, County were always expected to mount a strong challenge to return to the top flight.
It’s been a case of so far so good, though they did go down 2-1 at Morton last time out in the league.
And before arriving at Tannadice on the 29th of this month, their quality will be further tested by a visit to in-form Queen of the South this weekend and a derby against Inverness the following week.
That the team from the Highland capital are also looking strong will come as no surprise to those who know the Championship.
Although they didn’t even make the promotion play-offs last term, many at that level felt between Christmas and the end of the season Caley were the strongest of the 10 teams.
They’re coming to Tannadice in just over a month, almost exactly a year to the day since their impressive victory would mark the end of Ray McKinnon’s time in charge of the home team. While a win for Caley this time is unlikely to produce the same course of events with current United boss Csaba Laszlo, it would be a major blow to his hopes of guiding the team to promotion.
Sandwiched between those encounters with the teams from the far north, will be a trip to Ayr United and old boss Ian McCall.
Long since recovered from a difficult period at Tannadice, over the past three years he’s worked wonders at Somerset Park, twice winning promotion to this level.
His team were on fire at the start of the season, most notably when they headed for Dens Park in the Betfred Cup and destroyed Dundee 3-0.
The Honest Men’s last league outing saw them come back down to earth with a bump as they crashed at Queen of the South in a 5-0 beating that included a 10-minute first-half hat-trick from Steven Dobbie.
Over the next couple of weeks, it will be interesting to see if that was no more than a blip or an indication Ayr have been punching above their weight so far and, over the course of the season, will settle into their expected role of simply battling to stay in the division.
Whichever is the case, United will not expect anything they bring home from the southwest to come easy but, if it’s part of a haul of points from an extended good run, it will bode well for the remainder of the season.