Being thrown in at the deep end in the Betfred Cup could be just what Dundee United need, according to Sam Stanton.
Pre-season football is never a reliable gauge of whether a side is ready for the league and cup challenges that await them in a new campaign.
But going up against last year’s Scottish Cup finalists Hearts in their own stadium will be a more accurate indication of whether Stanton and his Tangerines’ team-mates are the stronger set of players than this time last year that they believe themselves to be.
The former Hibs man was part of a United side that flopped in the Betfred group games 12 months ago and took that poor form into the start of their league campaign.
He knows that it has to be different this time around.
“The Betfred was bad for us last season,” said Stanton.
“You want to win every game you play so it was disappointing that we started off with some poor results.
“It’s straight into a big game at Tynecastle this year.
“I think it’s a good one for us to see where we’re at.
“We’ll find that out straightaway because it’s one of the toughest grounds to go to and Hearts are one of the best teams in the country.”
With just two years’ worth of football at Tannadice, Stanton is one of the longest-serving members of the side.
And he believes that focusing on quality rather than quantity in this transfer window has been the correct approach.
“I’m one of the long-serving ones now,” he said. “There have been a lot of new faces since I arrived at the club.
“It shows how many changes there have been in the last couple of years.
“You can’t keep doing that every transfer window.
“The club has got ambitions to get back to the Premiership, which is where we should be.
“All the players who are coming in are quality. That transition period is hopefully over now and we’ve got a squad that is more than capable of winning the league.”
Stanton showed his class in Friday night’s 6-0 thrashing of Brechin City, scoring the first and best goal of the match.
He believes he is in a good position to stake a claim for a regular start in 2019/20.
“I think this can be a season where I can make my mark,” said Stanton.
“My first season was a good one but last year I struggled a bit with injuries at the beginning and the end, and couldn’t really get a run of games.
“That stops you getting rhythm.
“I’ve come back for pre-season and worked hard and hopefully I’ll now get a run of games. It’s always nice to score a goal, even if it’s in pre-season.”
As promised, Robbie Neilson switched it round for Saturday’s game against Dumbarton.
The players who came off the bench at Glebe Park started at the weekend.
Lawrence Shankland was one of them and he is now up-and-running as a United goalscorer – but he couldn’t stop the Tangerines losing 3-2.
The former Ayr United man’s close-range header on 58 minutes cancelled out an opener from Jim Duffy’s side three minutes into the second half.
United found themselves behind again on 65 minutes but it was 2-2 when Louis Appere was fouled in the box and then converted the penalty kick himself.
Dumbarton took the lead for a third and final time after Mark Reynolds was dispossessed.
All three of their goals were scored by trialists.