Bottom of the table St Johnstone’s wait for a first league win continues. Ian Roache and Eric Nicolson assess how worrying the situation is becoming, as well as the implications of Lawrence Shankland’s Scotland call-up.
Played seven, won none, points three, goal difference minus 13. Do we have a crisis club on our hands in the shape of St Johnstone?
IR: The cold, hard facts are, well, cold and hard. The longer the winless run goes on the more pressure will pile on the players. Motherwell may be third but Saints should still be expecting to beat them at home or at least go close.
EN: It’s certainly a situation Saints have been unaccustomed to but I’ll hold fire on crisis talk until after the first quarter is completed. In fact, even that would be a bit premature. There are obvious defensive concerns but also reasons for cautious optimism.
Saints have managed to get themselves out of trouble before but there can’t be any room for complacency, can there?
IR: They have had bouncebackability and maybe that is why I do still back them to eventually get it right. There has to be a victory asap, though. They won’t want to head into the international break as basement boys.
EN: I can assure you that Tommy Wright is the last manager who would be complacent. At times like these you want a boss who has a good grasp of what is going wrong and the skills to put it right. Wright ticks both those boxes.
The Perth men travel north to face Richard Foster and Ross County on Saturday. Should they play an Amy MacDonald tune on the team bus for a laugh?
IR: I’m not brave enough to suggest her song Footballer’s Wife should be belting out so I’ll settle for A Wish For Something More and hope that means the points come back down the A9. PS thanks to Google for the info on Amy’s back catalogue.
EN: I think both camps will be playing down the Mr and Mrs Foster factor in the build-up!
One man who is breaking records rather than listening to them is Lawrence Shankland. Is the Scotland call-up deserved?
IR: It definitely is deserved for what has been a record breaking, blistering start to the season. Some United fans – those still suffering from the loss of Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven to Celtic in 2015 – will be worried about the attention their star man is getting. However, I prefer to be positive and it’s great to see a player at United in the Championship being recognised by Scotland.
EN: Is he better than Marc McNulty? Yes. Is he better than Eamonn Brophy? Yes again. It’s deserved.
Was it encouraging to see United play so well as a team rather than just rely on Shankland?
IR: Absolutely. Paul McMullan was outstanding, too, and was a serious contender for man-of-the-match thanks to his delivery as well as two goals. Others worth a mention were Peter Pawlett, Adrian Sporle and Troy Brown on his home debut.
EN: Sporle’s display is a significant one. For a variety of reasons it would have been bad news for United if his signing had proved to be a mistake.
If there is concrete interest in Shankland from other clubs surely he is still more valuable to United if he stays and fires them to the title. Agree?
IR: United fans will be wary of “scout in the stand” stories as it is pretty routine for representatives of clubs to take in matches at Tannadice. Manager Robbie Neilson will also be relaxed about it all in the knowledge that it would take a gigantic bid in order for owner Mark Ogren to even consider selling his prize asset. Promotion means everything to United and that means hanging on to Shanks at all costs.
EN: Unless United have a 20-point lead in January it would be utter madness to sell. As Ian says, promotion is too important to jeopardise.
United have struggled at Alloa in the past but do you see them taking care of this Friday fixture?
IR: It hasn’t been a happy hunting ground and I have personally covered a few bad results down there. Maybe I’m a jinx so won’t mention which match I’m covering that night. Nevertheless, the Tangerines were so good against Morton that you would be nuts to bet against them.
EN: A straight forward away win.
Dundee fell nine points behind United last weekend. That looks a daunting gap even at this stage of the season, doesn’t it?
IR: There is considerable clear, blue water already flowing between the two Dundee clubs. It’s not just about the city, though, and they should also be concerned about trailing Ayr by nine and Inverness by four, even though they gained one on the Highlanders thanks to the draw the Dens men managed at Queen of the South. Ayr play ICT on Saturday so a win over Arbroath for Dundee will mean they gain on at least one of them.
EN: James McPake is already aware he is “sounding like a broken record”. By the time Dundee click – which will happen – United could well be out of sight.
The Dark Blues have Kane Hemmings, Andrew Nelson and Danny Johnson available but that front trio combined have scored fewer than half the league goals (six) than Shankland has netted himself (13). How can that be?
IR: That is a terrible stat from a Dark Blue perspective but you have to think it will click up front at some stage. All three attackers have pedigree so the quality is there. It’s just that it has been hiding from view.
EN: It’s not as they are missing many opportunities. I watched Dundee’s last two games on the road and I can’t think of one clear-cut chance any of that trio have passed up. That in itself is a worry.
Arbroath were poor at home to Ayr on Saturday but excellent against United the previous weekend. Which Lichties side do we expect to turn up at Dens?
IR: Manager Dick Campbell didn’t hold back with his after-match comments, labelling his team “very poor.” The players will be desperate to make up for that 3-0 loss at Gayfield and they will try to do at Dens for 90 minutes what they did for 88 minutes at Tannadice.
EN: The Ayr result won’t help Dundee on Saturday. I expect this to be a very hard game for the Dark Blues.