Dundee United boss Robbie Neilson will give Ayr United the respect league leaders deserve but is confident his team can catch them.
United will go level on points with the Honest Men at Tannadice on Friday night if they can make it six wins and a draw under Neilson.
The improvement in the Tangerines since the new gaffer arrived has been well documented.
Nevertheless, it is still worth reminding ourselves that after the teams last met at Somerset Park on October 6 – the fixture before Neilson was appointed – Ian McCall’s men boasted an eight-point advantage over United.
That was the last time his players tasted defeat.
So it will feel pretty special if they can check the table that night and see the gap wiped out.
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No one at the club is taking victory for granted, though. That is especially true of Neilson, who has genuine admiration for the job McCall has done down there.
He also played down any talk of the outcome of the game providing proof of who will be unfurling the Championship flag at the end of the season.
The Tangerines boss said: “Ayr are above us at the top of the league and have had a fantastic season.
“They are going to be full of confidence so we have to respect them.
“They have a very good and very experienced manager at this level in Ian McCall. He knows what it takes to get out of this league.
“Knowing how Ian is and what he believes in – a 4-4-2 formation, which they are very good at – he will come and expect his team to play that way against us because they have had a lot of success.
“Some teams come to Tannadice and change their shape and look to kill the game. I don’t expect Ayr to do that.
“They have had consistency of selection because they have not had a lot of injuries.
“They also have a striker who scores a lot of goals in Lawrence Shankland. They are very similar to Queen of the South in that respect, with Stephen Dobbie.
“Obviously, Shankland is one of the top strikers in the league so we will have to look at his movement and consider what we expect him to do in the game.
“But for me the key factor in Ayr’s season has been the workrate. There is an intensity to their play and they get after the ball.
“So we need to match that and work as hard, if not harder, than they do.
“I think it will a really entertaining and exciting game because you have two teams that will want to win.
“I hope we get a really top crowd for it because it’s something different for the fans – Friday night at home under the floodlights.
“I believe in my players and am confident that we are good enough to win any game in this league.
“We have to take care of their side of things – what Ayr can do – while also implementing our own game.
“We are not going into the match looking to negate Ayr but will respect them and look at how they play.
“I think, though, that if we perform the way we know we can play then we will give them a lot of problems.”
As for the match taking on huge significance, Neilson is not so sure.
He said: “If you win the game on Friday night it is not going to win you the league.
“What it will do, however, is give you confidence to progress to the next game, and give you momentum and a feelgood factor.
“Ultimately, the season will be decided by Alloa away, Queen of the South away, Inverness away – games like that.
“These are the matches that win you the title because they are the hardest ones to get up for.”
United’s squad is almost at full strength and that means and few tough decisions for the manager.
Skipper Fraser Fyvie is expected to return to the midfield and Neilson hinted that he will tinker a bit.
He said: “You want to be having to make decisions ahead of a big game like this.
“The team has been doing very well recently and we want that to continue.
“So we will look at it but there could be one or two changes in order to help us win the game.”
Lewis Toshney, meanwhile, was back running in training yesterday but remains some weeks away from a full recovery.