Dundee United boss Robbie Neilson has been dealt a big blow with the news that he will be without two strikers for next week’s crunch meeting with league leaders Ross County.
Pavol Safranko, who has netted 11 times for the Tangerines this season, was called up on Wednesday by Slovakia for their European Championship qualifiers against Hungary and Wales.
The 24-year-old will now miss next Tuesday’s clash with the Staggies as well as the following Saturday’s game against Alloa.
His absence will be keenly felt especially as it has now been confirmed that fellow front man Osman Sow could be out for up to a fortnight after aggravating a calf complaint during the defeat to Partick Thistle last weekend.
Neilson said: “I think Osman will be out for a week or two, to be honest.
“This Saturday will be too early for him. We are obviously disappointed not to keep him fit as we have worked hard to try to get him there.
“We only got 20 minutes out of him but you could see his quality even in that time.
“He brings something different and he links so we will just have to make sure this time that when we get him back, he doesn’t break down again.
“It is just a tight calf. He had it the previous week and we left him out. We brought him back into training but it flared up again during the game.
“So we will just have to be wary with it.
“We will judge it after Saturday but I don’t think he will be ready (for Ross County).
“If he isn’t, we still have Nicky Clark, Matty Smith and a few other options.”
The Staggies are now 11 points ahead of United with the potential to make it 14 when they play Inverness in the Highland derby tonight.
However, Neilson insisted his players simply have to focus on their own games and not what is happening elsewhere as they gear up to face Dunfermline, the Staggies and Alloa in the space of a week.
The manager added: “We are a considerable distance behind at the moment so we just have to win.
“I have been saying that for a while but the next week will probably have a big bearing on how the end of the season will pan out.
“We play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday and we face Ross County in the middle of that.
“If we can get nine points out of that, then we put ourselves back in it again.
“If we don’t then it is going to be tough.”
Neilson admitted he has spoken to his players about the harsh lessons that have to be taken on board following the defeat at Firhill.
United had fought back after conceding an early opener to equalise through Clark only to be caught out with a last-gasp sucker punch as they pushed for the winner.
Neilson added: “When you get chances, you have to take them.
“It sounds simple but we had two or three chances six yards out – you have to score and we didn’t do it.
“If that happens, you are always going to put yourself under pressure.
“It was also disappointing the way we opened up too much at the end.
“We went too gung-ho trying to get the goal and the win but we ended up losing a point.
“We spoke after the game and then we came in Monday and said that yes it’s great that you want to win the game and push forward but there is still a responsibility that we have to make sure we are set up behind it.
“It is something we work on and spoke about but I felt in the last 10 minutes of the game we lost that structure.
“That structure gives you the chance to put the ball back in when it comes out and stops it being a basketball game as it was at the end on Saturday.”
Having put the Partick defeat to bed, all attention has now turned to tomorrow’s match against an in-form Dunfermline at East End Park.
Neilson said: “Dunfermline have defended really well and haven’t conceded in the last five games.
“They have picked up maximum points – 15 out of 15 – so it is going to be tough down there.
“They have turned it around quite a bit but we have been down there before and won.
“I am confident we can do it again.”