Friday 11th March 2016 Kickoff: 1945hrs Motherwell v Dundee United Football – Scotland – Scottish Premiership
Now firmly into March, time is fast running out this season and that is not good news for Dundee United who have been rooted to the bottom of the Scottish Premiership for much of the campaign. Friday evening sees a massive game for them as they look to close the gap on Kilmarnock who are the most likely to be the club they fight relegation out with. Motherwell, on the other hand, have turned things around under Mark McGhee and are pushing for a place in the top six.
Mark McGhee took charge of Motherwell for the second time back in October when the club were languishing at the foot of the table, and it’s been a very positive appointment in the main. Since losing to Celtic in his first match, McGhee has led ‘Well to seven wins and four wins the last 18 games. It’s not form that will see them qualify for the Europe or threaten the leaders in the league but it’s a marked improvement on what had went before under the previous manager Ian Baraclough. Motherwell started this season with only three wins in 11 games and it looked like they would be battling out in the bottom two once again – just as they did last term when they required a play-off win over Rangers to maintain their Premiership status. Now with genuine aspirations of making the top six, it could yet be a season that ends on a positive note.
It’s fair to say that this season has been something of a nightmare for Dundee United. The last year and a bit has seen the club sell the majority of their assets and try to bring in replacements either from the youth setup, or on cut-price deals from abroad. Unsurprisingly, the result has not been favourable and they’re not left with having to make up an eight-point deficit with 10 games left of the campaign. The major factor in their current position was a disastrous run of 16 defeats in their first 23 league games and whilst it’s left them facing a massive struggle to even get into the playoffs, there is more hope now than there has been all season long. Three wins in their last six league games has at least given them some sort of chance, particularly as it has coincided with the demise of Kilmarnock. The confidence of the squad would also have taken a major boost with an excellent come-from-behind win away to Ross County in the Scottish Cup – a victory that has set them up with a semi-final appearance next month.
It’s not so long ago that Motherwell were finishing second behind Celtic and that’s the ambition that McGhee has for the next couple of years. It may be something of an aspiration but when you study the Scottish Premiership, there is very little between the majority of clubs. That is illustrated by ‘Well’s last half a dozen games, for instance, their last match was a 3-1 win at home to Partick Thistle but they were actually defeated by that same opponent only a month before. Such is the way the fixtures have fallen, the Fir Park club have also played Dundee United less than a month ago where they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Tannadice. A repeat of that win would see them move above United’s city rivals, Dundee, into the top six – albeit possibly only for a few hours before the Saturday set of fixtures.
A major issue for Dundee United in the first half of the season was scoring goals, and it shouldn’t really be much of a surprise considering the players that have departed in recent times, and the subsequent transition. Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay-Steven and Nadir Ciftci all left for pastures new and contributed the vast majority of the team’s goals in the last campaign. The previous manager, Jackie McNamara, was unable to find the correct formula to plug those holes and paid the ultimate price. The current man in charge – Mixu Paatelainen – looks to have found something of a solution and his strategy is beginning to produce results. United are creating a lot more chances than at any stage this season and scoring eight goals in their last four games is definitely a step in the right direction.
Motherwell v Dundee United Betting Tips
This may not be the most glamorous of games that will be live this weekend, but it is vitally important for Dundee United – as will their remaining nine games after this match. A win would not only enhance their confidence for the run-in, but as they are playing a day earlier than Kilmarnock, it would certainly increase the pressure on the Rugby Park club to get a result away to title-chasing Aberdeen on Saturday.
These two have met twice already this season and its one victory each, with both teams winning when on the road against the other. United will certainly hope that is a trend that continues on Friday but they will have to play to a similar standard to that of their Scottish Cup win in the Highlands last Saturday. Motherwell have actually only won one of their last four home games so that should inspire the visitors that they can get a much-needed three points. The stat I’m more interested in ‘Well’s recent home form is that nine of the last 10 games at Fir Park have seen three or more goals scored, and five of United’s last seven away games have seen similar – over 2.5 goals is the way to go here.
Over 2.5 goals 5/6 @ Skybet