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Analysis: Dundee United actually in better shape for play-off finale than in previous seasons

The United fans will make themselves heard in Paisley.
The United fans will make themselves heard in Paisley.

It may be hard to believe but Dundee United will be in better shape going into their play-off finale than they have been in the previous two seasons.

As the dust settled on a tense and ultimately frustrating goalless first leg against St Mirren at Tannadice on Thursday night, it was difficult to be too upbeat about the team’s chances.

Dundee United boss Robbie Neilson remains upbeat despite first-leg stalemate

After all, they now have to travel to the home of a top-flight team and get the better of them.

However, it is worth putting that 0-0 draw into a bit of perspective.

Back in 2017, the Tangerines took the same scoreline to Hamilton and would end up losers thanks to Greg Docherty’s fine strike after 64 minutes.

What should be noted, though, is that United’s players were a physical match for Accies and holding their own until fatigue flattened them at the start of the second half.

Dundee United 0 St Mirren 0: Tangerines fail to secure play-off final lead to take to Paisley

That was down to their exhausting schedule, which saw them play six matches in 19 days as they made their way through from the quarter-final.

This time, courtesy of finishing runners-up instead of third, their play-off programme has been less demanding at four games in 12. That compares pretty favourably to the Buddies’ four in 13.

Fitness does not appear to be an issue for Robbie Neilson’s men. Fingers crossed that does not change on Sunday.

Dundee United v St Mirren: What does Scottish play-off history tell us about the Tangerines’ promotion chances?

Last year, United travelled to Livingston for the semi-final already 3-2 down.

The home leg at Tannadice was a bit of a disaster, with the Tangerines throwing away a 2-1 lead as Livi scored twice in the latter stages. They also had midfielder Willo Flood sent off as tempers frayed in the final minutes.

United still managed a 1-1 draw in the return and played reasonably well.

PREMIERSHIP PLAY-OFF: Dundee United v St Mirren in photos

So this time going into the final match of the campaign they have had a lighter schedule than in 2017 and are better placed score-wise than last season.

The pressure will also be on St Mirren, who need to save themselves in front of their own expectant crowd, who might feel they are all but over the line. Also, United’s away support, which has been so impressive, will there in strength again.

Perhaps most significantly of all, they know they can win in Paisley having already done so in the Scottish Cup on February 9.

A repeat of that 2-1 scoreline will do the trick and no one should write United off just yet.

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