The title may be all but gone but there is no lack of motivation for Dundee United against Ayr this evening.
Preventing a clean sweep of defeats to a team they may yet face for a fifth and sixth time is one driving factor for the Tannadice clash.
And making sure the Tangerines don’t have to face a draining six-game slog to achieve their promotion dream is another.
Whoever said that second place is nowhere, didn’t have the Premiership play-offs in mind.
Just ask United defender Paul Watson.
“I lost in the final with Falkirk which wasn’t a good experience,” he recalled.
“We beat Kilmarnock 1-0 in the first leg and then in the second leg we were 3-0 down in no time.
“It ended up just being too many games.
“It’s a hard way to go up.
“That showed how important it is to finish second and have two games less. It’s vital.
“Let’s be honest, you’re up against it because it’s all built around the Premiership team staying up. Second is so important.
“The good thing about us just now is we’ve got the squad for it. You’ll need a lot of bodies for these games.”
United aren’t raising the white flag as far as automatic promotion is concerned but they aren’t kidding themselves on that the title is a realistic goal anymore either. The play-offs are looming large.
“Yeah, I think so,” Watson admitted. “Ross County have won again. Eight points with four to go is still do-able but it’s unlikely.
“We’ll concentrate on Friday night and see what happens.
“It’s important that we get the three points. We’ve not beaten them this season and it would be good to put a marker down if it is to be the play-offs.
“You don’t want to play them having lost four times.
“No-one wants that. Ayr beating us three times in itself isn’t good enough from our point of view.
“We’d want to put that right regardless of what might happen afterwards.”
Watson does not believe Ayr’s three out of three record against United so far carries some sort of deeper meaning.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “They’ve been better than us on the day on each occasion.
“Maybe tactically and physically they’ve got the better of us. We’ll be looking to change that and put down a marker.
“We’ve got the better of Ross County after losing heavily to them at the start of the season.
“The good thing about this squad is that we’re getting better as a unit with every game we play.
“We’re taking confidence into these last few games.
“We were unlucky to lose a late goal and not beat County last week.
“We’ve got a couple of sides to us. We’ve played some nice football but we’ve also been solid in our shape when we’ve been defending, albeit the late goal on Friday was disappointing.
“Being clinical in front of goal would make games so much easier for us.
“The manager was gutted for us. We all felt we fully deserved to win but he was very positive afterwards.”
There is more to beating Ayr than keeping Lawrence Shankland quiet, according to Watson.
“He’s a very good player but it’s not just about him,” he said. “It’s his strike partner (Michael) Moffat as well. He’s a very intelligent player who takes up good positions.
“If we can stop those two then hopefully we can stop the team.”
Osman Sow, Mark Connolly and Callum Booth should be in the United squad tonight. The game has a 7.05pm kick-off.