You would imagine even the most optimistic Dundee United fan would now concede their chances of making the top six are slim.
In the same breath, the hardest-to-please Arabs will be content at where the team finds themselves in their first season in the top flight since 2016.
That probably sums up the Tangerines’ Premiership campaign so far, optimism tempered with a healthy dose of reality, resulting in an underwhelming but pleasing outcome, nonetheless.
With two games to go until the split, seventh feels about right for this United team, more than good enough to hold their own in the division but not quite the finished article.
Their Jekyll and Hyde display in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Kilmarnock embodied that assessment perfectly.
🗣 "Earlier in the season we'd have said 'happy not to lose' but we're at a stage now where we're disappointed to draw."
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) February 27, 2021
For all the Terrors started well, registering the first blow through Adrian Sporle and controlling the opening period, that well-trodden path of letting their levels slip and, simultaneously, their opponents back into the contest, resulted in their 11th draw of the term.
That figure is a league high and, ultimately, not being able to turn those divides into victories will in the end cost the Tangerines a top-half finish.
It’s not mathematically over yet of course, with sixth-placed St Mirren four points ahead of United with two games still to play.
‘It’s about the continuous development of this group and the football club’
However, with Celtic and Aberdeen at home to finish their pre-split fixtures, Tannadice boss Micky Mellon admitted Saturday’s share of the spoils at Rugby Park leaves them facing a tall order.
“I think so, yeah, I think it would be fair to say that,” he said when asked if the Kilmarnock draw was a damaging result for their top-six ambitions.
“I couldn’t stand here and say no, we had to go down to Kilmarnock and, probably, win.
“We knew that and we weren’t hiding away from that.
“We’ve never spoken about what we actually want to achieve, everyone’s talking about top six and all the rest of it, we’ve never said that.
“What we’ve said is it’s about the continuous development of this group and the football club.
“Moving forward, that’s what we’ll do, we’ll speak this week about the things we need to get better that were clear.
“We’ll go again and get prepared for the Celtic game (on Sunday), which is another massive game for us.
“We’re going to have a go at that and see where it takes us.”
Tangerines ‘development job’ to continue into season two for boss Micky Mellon
With bottom-six football likely lying in wait for United, their supporters can rest easy – they look unlikely to be dragged into a relegation dogfight.
Sitting 10 points ahead of second-bottom Killie, they are not entirely safe but Mellon’s team Mellon has more to give.
Throughout his first season as manager, the 48-year-old has constantly referred to the Tannadice project as a “development job” – and I must add, every single time he has been correct to say so.
Down in Ayrshire, it was no different as the Terrors came away with a share of the spoils against Tommy Wright’s men.
They had enough chances to win it, registering 11 shots with four on target, and, rather encouragingly, providing hitmen Lawrence Shankland and Marc McNulty with a good chunk of them.
There were plenty of touches of the ball in and around the box for the Tangerines.
However, they did find themselves pinned back for large parts, surrendering a huge amount of territory in their third (40.9%) and possession (58.5%) to Kilmarnock.
As often is the case under Mellon, though, they gave up the ball and stood firm – winning 52.2% of their duels.
Midfielder Calum Butcher was particularly impressive in that category winning all seven of his battles, while Jamie Robson also did well, recovering possession eight times for his side.
It was a mixed bag again and a rather familiar tale for the United manager to digest, with some aspects pleasing him and others leaving him wanting.
As for any Tangerines boss, managing expectations is crucial.
Mellon added: “I believe that to go in at half time 1-0 up, a team that wants to go where we had an opportunity to, has to do better in the second half.
“There were moments in one-v-ones where we gave away too many set-plays that a team that’s aspiring to get into that top six have to be better at.
“We need to defend, not just the defenders, from the front better and understand they’re the moments you have to dig in and be better at.
“We need to better with the football when we get the opportunities but, in saying that, we’ve created two chances at the end.
“If we’re going to be pushing towards that top half of the table, we have to take those.
“I knew it was going to be a battle going down there, I knew it was going to be tough and, at the end of the day, to come to Kilmarnock and be disappointed to only take a point shows you our ambition and what we want to try to achieve.
“We fought hard to try to see it out but there’s things there we have to improve at.”
That they will improve further remains to be seen but, credit where it’s due, Mellon has completed step one of the job and stabilised Dundee United in the top flight.
With seven games to go, how they perform in those contests will set the tone for next season where you can bet step two will see the focus shift to a more realistic top-six push and hopefully football that gets supporters off their seats.