Dundee United must get their show on the road again as the Championship title race hots up.
Raith Rovers have proven to be serious challengers and there’s lingering disquiet from fans over cup dismissals at Falkirk and Queen of the South.
A 3-0 victory over Saturday’s opponents Ayr United in August saw Jim Goodwin’s side well ahead on possession and shots on target.
With the Honest Men 17 points adrift of United, it’s clear they’re nowhere near the quality of the Tangerines.
However, after two cup slip-ups against third tier opposition, the onus is on the Tannadice side to show that those results were aberrations, otherwise there’ll be ammunition for disgruntled supporters who reckon there’s been a slippage in performances since the five and six nil hammerings of Partick Thistle and Arbroath.
In the league, United’s form book still shows wins v Airdrie and Dunfermline, with a draw at Duncan Ferguson’s improved Inverness sandwiched between.
But, in football, the iron law is that you’re only as good as your last game and United’s last two matches were stinkers.
With two huge home games on the spin against Ayr followed by a hugely anticipated visit from Raith Rovers, Jim Goodwin’s side now must atone for their cup missteps, while also restoring their pride and points advantage.
Mental strength is just as important as physical ability in football.
Historically, there’s no greater test than road trips to Glasgow to face Rangers and Celtic.
Dundee have already been thumped 5-0 by Rangers at Dens this season and it’s likely to be a backs to the wall afternoon for them at Ibrox on Saturday.
Rangers are 16 points better off and have better players, with sharper thought, swifter movement and more acute touch and pace.
That’s no denigration of the Dens side; every team in Scotland bar Celtic is in the same boat going to Ibrox.
Chances will be at a premium for the Dark Blues and the intensity of concentration required for the entire match will test them to the limit.
Their strength of character and mindset will be hugely important and, so far this season, they’ve been very resilient and robust in those departments.
It won’t be games against the Old Firm that will decide Dundee’s season, but performances against the pair can go a long way to either boosting or denting confidence.
Tony Docherty’s side have been more than a decent match for all others except the Glasgow duo this season.
If he could offer wages ten times those which the lads at Dens are on, that wouldn’t be the case but, as things stand, Rangers and Celtic outgun Dundee and others by a huge financial margin and can sign better players.
The acid test is how teams like Dundee find a way to narrow those advantages.