Dundee United boss Micky Mellon says his side learned a lot from their last trip to Kilmarnock and expects them to be a different animal at Rugby Park on Saturday.
United went down 4-0 to Killie in Ayrshire back in August, one of their worst results and performances of the season.
However, headed into this weekend’s clash with Tommy Wright’s troops, Tangerines gaffer Mellon believes they have improved since then as they target a spot in the Premiership’s top six.
“We learned a lot that day at Kilmarnock,” he said.
“We got turned over too easily, committed too many players forward when we didn’t have control of the ball.
“The two full-backs went forward together, leaving too much space in midfield without a safety set up.
“We let too many crosses into the box easily and didn’t defend them properly.
“So what we did when we came away from that was work on it and I have looked at it as an exam.
“That’s the day I saw where we had to get better, what we needed to improve on and really work on it.
“After that we got a lot of clean sheets, we worked on getting the defensive side right and once we did that it was about getting it going further up the pitch.
“That has been the process and the way I’ve done it.”
‘I am pleased we are at a certain stage and now I am determined to maintain and build on those standards’
Despite Sunday’s 4-1 defeat at Rangers, Mellon has been happy with his side’s recent displays, insisting a lot of work has gone into making the Terrors a top-tier outfit.
He continued: “I would like to think people will have noticed I have been quite organised in the way I built up the team to how I want them to play.
“I dealt with the defensive side first and tried to get clean sheets and then I tried to connect that with the midfield play and then the front play before we married it all together.
“If somebody comes to see us I would like to think they would see what Dundee United are trying to do and achieve, with and without the ball.
“We are now at the front end of it and there is a lot more work on that, but we are also trying to take care of the rest of it as well.
“We want to bring it all together to score goals and keep clean sheets.
“I am pleased we are at a certain stage and now I am determined to maintain and build on those standards.
“We are also working on the mentality as well, on how I want them to think all the time.
“We are in a good place and I am enjoying it but it is now a case of prodding all of it and trying to challenge the group to make us the best we can be.
“We went to Ibrox and put a dent in them but we came away and learned things we need to build on going forward.”
United near full strength as they try to claim top-six prize
Barring the suspended Peter Pawlett and injured Chris Mochrie (hip), Mellon is pleased to have a full team to choose from as United go into a crucial match for their top-half hopes.
With St Mirren currently two points ahead of them in sixth, and with Celtic and Aberdeen to face before the split, you feel the Killie clash is where Mellon’s men are most likely to “claim that prize”.
Mellon commented: “It would be wrong for me not to say all the games are massively important now.
“You have to go and attack all of them, like we have been doing, because we know the huge value of three points over the next three games.
“We will try to get the points necessary to claim that prize.”
Of his squad, he added: “I had 11v11 in training on Wednesday and I loved it because they got right into each other.
“That’s the kind of environment that I want here. I want them to understand they’re all here to play.
“The reasons Dundee United pay them wages is they’re expected to take part for us, otherwise I’d have told them: ‘There’s no future here for you’.
“I want to keep that healthy competition and desire to want to play in the first team.
“It was a really good, competitive game and a lot of them had the ‘look at me’ attitude which I want.
“I loved it and I said to them at the end: ‘That’s the culture I want here’.
“I want people understanding that, if they get in our eye line and they produce, we’ll pick them.
“A few of them have given me problems, which is healthy for the football club.
“Nobody is guaranteed to play and that’s the kind of environment we’re trying to create here.
“I’ll not have anybody walking around with the hump.
“All of them have to understand if you do well and produce the goods you’ll stay in the team but there’ll be someone biting and scratching at you, wanting to make you better and to play.”