Courier Sport’s ‘heavenly bodies’ in case it’s not immediately clear, that’s Eric Nicolson, Ian Roache and Neil Robertson take a trip through space and time to discuss a weekend of Scottish Cup action and a familiar face returning to the dugout.
Q Northern Lights. Forget about the aurora borealis, Dundee United have certainly lit up the Highlands recently have they not?
IR: I have been there to see both of those wins against Ross County and both were well deserved. To score six goals in two games at such a tricky venue is terrific. Maybe they should consider more sleepovers for the league run-in…
NR: I honestly felt that after beating the Staggies in the league United would struggle to repeat the feat in the cup, but they deserve great credit for securing back-to-back victories at a really tricky venue.
EN: If you were listening to the radio or watching Jeff Stelling and his team on Saturday afternoon at about quarter-to- five and you heard “there’s been a goal at Dingwall” you’re telling fibs if you thought United were the scorers. It wasn’t a league game, but they have made what could be a defining statement. Kilmarnock (and Hamilton) players will know that United are a better team than them now. You don’t put in a last half-hour performance like Saturday’s without proper character in your side.
Q Gravity. Will the Tangerines’ cup run help or hinder their fight to get off the bottom of the league?
IR: It would surely be impossible not to get a boost from a game like that quarter-final. It was a magnificent comeback with 10 men and it was nice to see all those big smiles on United faces for a change.
NR: Mixu’s men displayed the sort of never-say-die attitude in Dingwall that they will need to replicate in every league match remaining this season if the great escape dream is to become a reality. However, the manager himself has defiantly insisted that no-one in the United dressing-room will be allowed to regard the cup as some form of “rest” from Premiership business and he will be determined to fight on two fronts.
EN: 100% help not hinder. United have waited a long time to get some momentum. People will say the FA Cup run of Wigan a couple of years ago cost them their Premier League status but United won’t have a fixture backlog like Roberto Martinez’s men did. With the form United are in just now, the more games the better.
Q Open space or asteroid belt. Do you fancy United to get past either Inverness of Hibs or is it still a tough one despite avoiding the Old Firm in the draw?
IR: I think manager Mixu Paatelainen was right to play it cool after the draw. They may have missed the Glasgow giants but they still have it all to do to reach the final, whichever team wins the ICT-Hibs replay.
NR: If United can maintain their recent form, then I see no reason why they cannot beat whichever team wins the replay. It is certainly a huge carrot for a group of players that have suffered so many disappointments this season to be able to cap it all by securing a place in the Scottish Cup final.
EN: If I was Mixu I’d be hoping for Caley Thistle in the semi. I watched United up in Inverness a couple of months ago and they should have won. They were poor at Dens recently as well. I don’t think they’re a top six team. United v Hibs is a much less attractive match-up from a Tangerine perspective given what has gone before in the League Cup.
Q Total eclipse. What on earth happened to Dundee at Ibrox?
IR: That was a total shocker for everyone, well probably apart from Rangers fans and the bookies. The fourth goal when Lee Wallace waltzed through the centre of the defence was ridiculous and painful to watch.
NR: Rangers fans I know have admitted that was the best they have seen their side play this season but as good as Mark Warburton’s men were, Dundee were woeful. They never recovered from the loss of the first goal in just 13 seconds and had no answer to the pace and power of Rangers. Several of the home players were outstanding but special mention must go to veteran Kenny Miller who rolled back the years with a stand-out performance.
EN: Dundee froze, simple as that. The wait for a big result goes on.
Q Dark (blue) matter. Surely the Dens men can still make it a decent season by finishing in the top half of the table. Agree?
IR: Dundee can look very good at times and as we saw on Saturday very bad at times. However, they still have enough quality in their team to finish in the top six.
NR: Dundee looked shell-shocked at times against Rangers with Paul McGowan admitting that some of the players froze at Ibrox. Their confidence will have taken a severe battering on Saturday but the fans, especially those who forked out hard cash to travel to Ibrox, deserve a big response from the team when they play Hearts at home this weekend. Overall, Dundee should still have enough quality to finish in the top six.
EN: They should make the top six. Actually, they should finish fourth. But getting the Ibrox capitulation out of their heads will be easier said than done. It will be a psychological job Paul Hartley now has on his hands. They don’t need to beat Hearts on Saturday but they need to show that there’s no scar tissue.
Q Big bang theory. Rangers v Celtic will certainly be explosive but who do you fancy to win that one?
IR: Rangers are in form just now and ripped Dundee to pieces but I would fancy Celtic’s higher standard of player to just edge it for them. Let’s face it, a win for the Light Blues and Ronny Deila is toast.
NR: If Rangers can repeat the performance they produced against Dundee, then they have a great chance of making it to the final. However, Celtic and Leigh Griffiths will provide a stern test for Warburton’s defence and the Hoops have to start as favourites.
EN: It’s Celtic for me. That’s not based on form, just a suspicion that the prospect of an Old Firm semi will finally knock them out of the lethargy that has characterised their season so far.
Q Black hole or shooting star? Arbroath sacked manager Todd Lumsden after they fell to third-bottom of League Two. Is new boss Dick Campbell the man to save the Lichties?
IR: I certainly hope it works out for him and Arbroath. It just doesn’t seem right to see them sitting down there and hopefully they can get a new-boss bounce.
NR: They don’t come more experienced than Campbell and his “Mr Motivator” style is exactly what a struggling side like Arbroath need to turn things around.
EN: Arbroath have acted just about in enough time. Tuesday night’s heavy defeat shows that the threat of going into that dreaded out-of-the-SPFL play-off is a real one, but I still don’t think Arbroath will go as close to falling out of the league as Montrose did last year.