Dundee United played an internal bounce match this morning (Friday) as they navigate a 13-day hiatus without a senior fixture.
The low-key workout was largely designed to maintain sharpness, while working on shapes and strategies ahead of next week’s mouth-watering Championship trip to Raith Rovers.
And it will also give boss Jim Goodwin food for thought as he weighs up who should be in his line-up for the televised clash in Kirkcaldy.
Following a decent winter transfer window and with a near full-strength squad to choose from, starting berths are by no means certain and Goodwin has some conundrums to consider.
Watt? Moult? Or both?
It is a headache that is the envy of most managers in the Championship.
But a headache, nonetheless.
If Goodwin opts to continue with David Wotherspoon in a ‘No.10’ role, then it realistically only leaves room for a sole striker.
Louis Moult is arguably more stylistically suited to the assignment. He is adept at using his physicality to hold up possession, bring United’s midfielders into the game and is an aerial threat.
However, Tony Watt completely changed the game when he came on against Ayr United last weekend. The former Celtic and Scotland striker has a maverick, unpredictable quality and, when given a sight of the sticks, is a fine finisher.
Goodwin could opt to start both players, as he has on plenty of occasions this season, with Watt charged with dropping deeper and supplementing the midfield while out of possession.
That would likely see Wotherspoon drop out of the side.
Regardless of Goodwin’s call, at least one player with vast Premiership – and perhaps even international – experience is going to start on the bench.
Who starts in defence against Raith Rovers?
Adapting to an unfamiliar role as right-sided centre-back, Graham was excellent in recent shutouts against Inverness and Dunfermline, and solid once more in the 2-1 victory at Ayr.
He has responded to a difficult outing against Morton with aplomb. As has Kevin Holt, who was given a torrid time by January’s Championship player of the month George Oakley.
However, Goodwin now has options – and has been afforded close to a fortnight to ponder them.
The arrival of Sam McClelland on loan from St Johnstone means that United have a naturally right-footed, 6ft3ins centre-half with international pedigree in their ranks.
While only 22 years of age, he boasts a gold-plated apprenticeship at Chelsea and shone in England’s League Two last term. Until an unfortunate ankle injury, he appeared likely to be a regular top-flight starter for the Saintees.
It would be gutsy and ruthless for Goodwin to pitch McClelland straight into action next Friday night, but not out of the question.
Likewise, one cannot entirely discount the prospect of Declan Gallagher being back in contention, having been initially ruled out for around a month after undergoing groin surgery on January 12.
Goodwin is unlikely to take any risks with the Scotland man – especially given United’s newfound depth in defence and their strong position in the league – but stranger things have happened than a dramatic return.
Who will be winging it for United?
Goodwin underlined his willingness to make alterations when Kai Fotheringham was dropped from the side against Ayr, with Alex Greive deployed on the right flank.
It was statement decision, given Fotheringham boasts 18 goal contributions – finding the net 11 times, and teeing up another seven – during a sensational breakthrough campaign.
Greive was diligent and stuck to his task, while showing an inclination to drive inside, creating space for right-back Liam Grimshaw to burst into. However, it wasn’t a home run of a display.
Fotheringham was brought on at the same time as Watt and, while not as impactful as the forward, added pace and power to the attacks from wide.
With Mathew Cudjoe itching for an opportunity and Miller Thomson back in the squad at the weekend, Goodwin has a plethora of choices – a mix of pedigree and youthful exuberance.
It is far more unlikely that Goodwin makes a change on the opposite side, given the understanding Scott McMann and Glenn Middleton have cultivated.
As well as Middleton notching 12 assists in 30 outings, the duo rarely give attackers a sniff down that wing, aiding United’s defensive efficacy.
But with Wotherspoon, a wonderful left-sided midfielder over the years with St Johnstone, on the books, you can never say for sure.