Dundee United boss Ray McKinnon admits finishing second could be key to play-off success

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Ray McKinnon.

Finishing second in the Championship is now the No.1 priority for Dundee United boss Ray McKinnon and his players in their promotion push.

With Hibs having clinched the league title last weekend, the Tangerines’ promotion hopes now rest on successfully negotiating a path through the play-offs.

That task will be eminently more likely if McKinnon’s men can finish the best of the rest behind the Easter Road outfit.

The teams who end the regular season in third and fourth will have to battle it out for the right to face the second-top side, who will have had a 10-day rest period before that two-legged tie – a break McKinnon believes could be crucial to his side’s promotion hopes.

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The manager, who has been in the play-offs three times before with previous clubs Brechin and Raith, said: “We want to finish as high as we can, that’s been the message all season.

“But it would be good to finish second as it makes it more advantageous as you get a 10-day break which would be massive to recharge the batteries.

“You only have the semi and then a play-off if you are successful whereas if you finish third or fourth, it is six games.

“So we are trying our best to finish second.”

He added: “In the play-offs, it is all about keeping your nerve and being strategic over the two games.

“You need to make sure you are solid going into the second leg. It doesn’t matter where that is but there is pressure.

“You have to make sure you are in the tie going into the second leg.

“With Raith last season, we were 1-0 up from the first leg and then went to Easter Road for the second and lost two early goals.

“Admittedly, we battered them after that and a goal probably would have taken us through.

“But as I said, you need to be in the tie. The first leg is not a must-win. You need to be strategic and the mentality has to be right over a two-legged affair.”

United’s finishing position will be determined by the final three fixtures of the regular season, starting with the visit of St Mirren to Tannadice tomorrow.

The Buddies are on a seven-game unbeaten run in the league and while the Tangerines defeated them in the Challenge Cup last month, McKinnon is definitely taking nothing for granted.

He added: “They have gone on a run but we have always said that they have a good squad there with a mix of experience and youth.

“I always felt they were in a false position but they are starting to click now.

“They have good players like Stevie Mallan, Kyle Magennis and we know all about Cammy Smith. They have the experienced ones such as John Sutton and Rory Loy while Stephen McGinn has played in England.

“So they are a decent side and we will not be underestimating them at all.” United will be without the injured Frank van der Struijk, Scott Fraser and Sean Dillon.

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