Dundee Utd V Kilmarnock at Tannadice Park : Match Preview

22 January 2016
Dundee Utd V Kilmarnock - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

John Rankin confident team meeting will bring positives changes to Dundee United

John Rankin has revealed a frank team meeting ahead of the biggest match of his Dundee United career has hammered home just what is at stake when they host Kilmarnock.

And the experienced midfielder believes the players' meeting - without manager Mixu Paatelainen - has already produced positive results with a renewed vigour in training.

United are 14 points adrift second-bottom Killie in the Ladbrokes Premiership and Paatelainen admits defeat against the Ayrshire side would leave them with a "very difficult" task in avoiding the drop.

And skipper Sean Dillon felt the time was right on Tuesday for the players to take responsibility as they try to turn around a desperate campaign, which has seen them collect just 10 points from 22 games.

Rankin said: "In terms of my Dundee United career, this is probably the biggest game I have played in. I have played European ties and cup finals but this is bigger than any cup final I have played in.

"We need to win, there is no shirking away from it, the dressing room knows that. The pressure is on and it's how we respond to that.

"This week the players had a meeting, discussed everything and aired a few grievances and it's one we needed. To be honest, we probably needed it earlier in the season and it never came about.

"But Sean took responsibility as club captain to call a meeting. There were a lot of voices, probably the voices you expect to be heard.

"The boys took it on board. Training this week has been a different tempo and standard to previous weeks. There were a few battered and bruised and a few arguments, which you expect at this time.

"If we can take that spirit into the game, then I'm expecting a result.

"The manager wasn't at the meeting, we handled it ourselves and took responsibility and I think we nailed the problem."

Rankin refused to contemplate the impact of defeat.

"I don't want to think about it," the 32-year-old said. "Winning is the only thing that's in my head. There's no point in thinking negatively.

"We are where we are because we have been poor and this is a chance for everyone to step up and be counted. We need big shoulders, big personalities and big characters, it's the only way we are going to get out of this."

United will be without Ryan McGowan, who flew to China on Thursday to negotiate a move to Henan Jianye, after United accepted an improved bid of about B#300,000.

Fellow full-back Paul Dixon is suspended and centre-back Callum Morris is injured while new loan signing Kyle Knoyle, a 19-year-old West Ham full-back, will not be available until next week.

Meanwhile, Kilmarnock winger Tope Obadeyi believes victory over Dundee United could provide a platform for both him and his team to finish the season in consistent form.

Victory at Tannadice would move Killie 17 points clear of their opponents and out of the relegation play-off spot.

It would also maintain an unbeaten start to 2016 and Obadeyi feels success on Tayside would ease some of the pressure that has faced his unpredictable team.

"Seventeen points would give Dundee United a tough task no matter if they are playing decent football," he said. "It's a tough thing mentally to get past.

"If we do go 17 points clear then we can start looking up, because it's quite tight in the bottom six.

"Even though a few teams have games in hand, we are only five points off the top six and we can still fight for it, because there are a few games to go. We can stay positive and hopefully get ourselves up the table and away from the play-off position.

"Results breed confidence and the last two results show what we can do.

"Earlier on in the season we were winning games and going into the next game thinking we would win, and taken our foot off the pedal. It doesn't work that way, we have to turn up to every single game with the right attitude.

"If we turn up with the right attitude again on Saturday then three points should be on the cards.

"If you focus and everyone is together and fighting for each other then we can easily get three points."

Kilmarnock have Josh Magennis, Stevie Smith and Kevin McHattie back from suspension for the trip.

Rory McKenzie is still missing after dropping out of the squad that beat Inverness last weekend with a training-ground knock.

Mark O'Hara (ankle) and Chris Johnston (knee) remain out while Mark Connolly is still struggling with a recurring knee problem.

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