Dundee United defender Liam Smith insists they are not “looking over their shoulders” as they welcome Inverness Caley Thistle to Tannadice.
The Championship leaders currently boast a commanding 18-point advantage over the second-placed visitors, albeit the Highlanders have two games in hand.
Depending on how it all pans out tonight, United will either increase their lead over ICT to 21 points and take a giant leap towards the title, keep their opponents at arm’s length with a draw or start the nerves jangling with a defeat that would prolong their form dip and put them a potential nine ahead of John Robertson’s men.
Therefore, tonight’s televised clash is of enormous significance and probably their biggest game since the doomed second leg of last season’s promotion play-off final against St Mirren.
The Tangerines have not exactly been setting the heather on fire going into such an important match.
They could only manage a drab goalless draw at Alloa last Friday and their last victory was on January 11 away to Partick Thistle – a whole five matches ago.
While that’s not exactly a crisis they could certainly do with a good performance and three points this evening.
There will be tension in the air at Tannadice because of what is at stake but Smith insists the United camp remains calm, focused and unconcerned about the sides staring up at them.
Smith said: “We know other teams, their fans and the media are all looking at us and wondering if we are starting to look over our shoulders.
“But we can’t do that and won’t do that.
“We just have to take each week at a time and get the job done.
“If we can just do that, it won’t matter what other teams do.
“We know people are looking at us because that’s what happens when you are top of the league.
“As soon as we drop any points people react to it.
“Inverness are the team closest to us so it becomes that bit more important to put in a good performance and get a result.
“We haven’t hit the heights in the last few weeks so we know we have to get back to winning matches.
“The standards we have set are there and the lads have been at each other to get back to that.
“We have been out in front for a long time so it takes a lot of focus,” he added.
“To maintain that we have to give each other a kick now and again. That is what has been happening.
“The motivation is there every week because we want to push the gap further every week.”
Like his manager Robbie Neilson, Smith believes that the more open, expansive football favoured by ICT boss Robertson might help the Tangerines tonight.
“What we have found is teams are more inclined to sit in, frustrate you and take a point from games rather than come out,” he said.
“That won’t be the case with Inverness.
“They need a result if they are going to catch us so they will have to open up.
“It would be a more flowing game and that will suit us better because we have the players to capitalise.
“The pressure is on the chasing teams so we have to use that to our advantage.
“I have played in this league for three seasons now and every time Inverness have been right up there.
“They have a good squad, a very experienced manager and they play good football.
“So you know every game against them is going to be tough.
“Against Alloa we got into the final third so many times but the final pass and final decision wasn’t what it should be.
“So we know we have to improve on that this time.”
United expect to have both Paul McMullan and Louis Appere available again after injury.