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Dundee United boss Robbie Neilson would love his players to put pressure on rivals by winning at Alloa

Troy Brown.
Troy Brown.

Dundee United manager Robbie Neilson wants his players to pile pressure on their rivals by winning at Alloa tonight.

The Tangerines can extend their lead at the top of the Championship, for a few hours at least, to three points over Ayr United, eight over Inverness Caley Thistle and 12 over Dundee by beating the Wasps.

United will be involved in a few Friday fixtures this season – for example, the next two Dundee derbies have just been brought forward a day – and that offers them an opportunity to get points in the bag before watching the rest of the results come in over the weekend.

However, Neilson is only too aware that the part-timers have caused the Tannadice men a lot of problems in the recent past.

Alloa had the better of last season’s games against United played on their own park, drawing 1-1 in September before winning 2-1 in December. They also came out on top in two penalty shootout deciders in the Betfred and Irn-Bru Cups.

United may be in sparkling form after their 6-0 success against Morton last Saturday while their hosts are at the bottom of the table but they will be wary of their opponents.

Asked about Alloa, Neilson said: “They play a lot of good football.

“I have watched a lot of their games and their manager Peter Grant is continuing the job that Jim Goodwin did there.

“He is playing expansive football with two midfielders and a team who likes to pop it around the back.

“We know when we go down there that Alloa could have a bit of the possession so we just need to set-up well and do our jobs.

“It is not a great place for anyone because they have a very good home record.”

Part of the reason for that could be the surface at the Indodrill, which not only is artificial but was narrowed considerably during Goodwin’s time in charge.

Grant has resisted that particular temptation up to now, according to Neilson.

The Tangerines boss added: “I know they have expanded the pitch because in past seasons it was really tight and difficult to play in.

“They have decided they want to play and have opened the space up.”

All eyes will, of course, be on United striker Lawrence Shankland tonight.

He has hogged the headlines all week thanks to his Scotland call-up for the games against Russian and San Marino.

Shankland will have the pleasure of swapping Alloa’s modest little ground for the swanky 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow just six days later.

He will be looking to head off on international duty on a high by adding to the 13 league goals – 15 in all competitions – that he has already scored for his club.

As the other end of the pitch, Neilson is keen to see how new central defender Troy Brown copes with the set-pieces and crosses that the Alloa players will send his way this evening.

Neilson: “Troy has been great.

“He was at Bury and hadn’t played for about eight weeks and prior to coming into us he hadn’t trained for two weeks.

“He then came in for the Ayr match before his wife had a baby and he became a dad (missing the Arbroath game).

“Troy has been travelling up and down the road a lot but we can see him getting fitter and stronger with game time.

“He is big and physical, especially at set-plays, and that makes a big difference to us.”

Brown was brought in to provide cover for the injured Mark Connolly.

The Irishman is expected to be out for a further six weeks with his hamstring problem.

Frontman Nicky Clark has also damaged his hamstring but should be back to face Queen of the South at Palmerston on October 19.

Neilson also had negative news about Jamie Robson, who missed the hammering of Morton.

The United boss revealed: “Jamie has rolled his ankle.

“He will miss Alloa and we have a free week after that but we hope to get him back for the Queen of the South game.”

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