Writer: Arab Jacques
Date:Friday December 1 2006
2nd December 2006
Craig Levein is concerned that Hibernian might have a point to prove at Easter Road on Saturday, after losing a 2-0 lead to Celtic last weekend.
Dundee United have risen like a phoenix from the flames since Craig Levein`s arrival at the start of last month, beating Rangers, Kilmarnock & St Mirren to jumped from bottom to 9th in the SPL table.
Although, 4th placed Hibernian are also playing well under new boss John Collins and after an incredible 6-1 victory at Fir Park just a few weeks ago, they were unlucky not to beat runaway league leaders Celtic at Easter Road last Sunday.
The last time the two sides met - last September - it was a very one sided affair, with Chris Killen, Dean Shiels and Ivan Sproule giving the Hibees a well deserved 3-0 win.
However, thing have changed dramatically at Tannadice since that game, with the arrival of Craig Levein has come a more confident United side with a more winning mentality.
Dundee United`s recent performances might not match the free-following, entertaining football that has earned Hibs so much credit this season, but they are steadily improving and so are the results.
Looking ahead to the Hibs match, Craig Levein told the Courier "After Celtic, Hibs are the form team just now and defensively they`ll test us all over the pitch."
"This is the biggest test yet for us. They have so many good players and will definitely be more attacking than St Mirren were."
"We certainly won`t be going there with the intention of sitting in soaking up pressure and just defending. To be honest, I`m not at the stage where I would be 100% convinced we`d be able to do that."
"We`ll be looking to ask a few questions of Hibs, have a go and see where it takes us. Tomorrow will be a big test and we have to step up all over the park."
Hibernian hope to have Chris Killen back after he failed a late fitness test before the Celtic match, but midfielder Merouane Zemmama is still out with the same hamstring complaint which has kept him out for several weeks already.
Defenders from many SPL sides have struggled to control the pacey 25-year-old, who scored against Celtic last week and twice against Motherwell the week before.
5 goals in 15 SPL matches doesn`t sound too impressive, but the Northern Ireland midfielder creates many more chances for his own strikers with his lung bursting runs up the right wing.
Dundee United`s central defensive pairing of David McCracken (hamstring strain) and Garry Kenneth (ankle knock) have been struggling with injury all week, but they returned to training on Thursday and Levein is hopefully they will both be fit enough to make the starting lineup at Easter Road.
Otherwise it will be left to Lee Mair & Alan Archibald to help the United defence together.
If United are to take anything away from a very attack minded Hibernian, it will probably be thanks to some great goalkeeping from Derek Stillie.
The Scottish born keeper celebrates his 33rd birthday on Sunday and 3 points and a clean sheet would be the perfect birthday gift.
'This is definitely the hardest test we`ve faced since the manager came in and Hibs are the form team in the country at the moment,' Stillie told the Courier.
'They were unlucky not to beat Celtic on Sunday and they are a side whose forte is definitely to attack. From open play they are dangerous all over the pitch and, this season, I think they`ve even improved at set plays — their defenders are big and pose problems when they come forward.'
'We, though, are going in with confidence after the last results and, while I`ll repeat that it`s only a start for us, what the last few results have shown people is that we have a decent set of players here.'
Last 5 meetings:
Dundee United 0-1 Hibernian
10th September 2006, SPL match
Ref: Craig Thomson
Chris Killen, 52mins (Hibs)
Dean Shiels, 81mins (Hibs)
Ivan Sproule, 90mins (Hibs)
Hibernian 3-1 Dundee United
4th March 2006, SPL match
Venue: Easter Road
Ref: Brian Winter
Derek Riordan, 6mins (Hibs)
Alan Archibald, og 25mins (Hibs)
Chris Killen, 33mins (Hibs)
David Goodwillie, 89mins (Dundee Utd)
Dundee United 1-0 Hibernian
3rd December 2005, SPL match
Ref: Brian Winter
Collin Samuel, 61mins (Dundee Utd)
Hibernian 2-1 Dundee United
10th September 2005, SPL match
Venue: Easter Road
Ref: Kenny Clark
Grant Brebner, 14mins (Dundee Utd)
Garry O'Connor, 18mins(p) (Hibs)
Ivan Sproule, 70mins (Hibs)
Dundee United 2-1 Hibernian
9th April 2005, Scottish Cup Semi Final
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow
Ref: Mike McCurry
Derek Riordan, 58mins(p) (Hibs)
Jim McIntyre, 73mins (Dundee Utd)
Jason Scotland, 76mins (Dundee Utd)
Performances havent been great from Dundee United, but the side have started to defender better and have had 2 clean sheets (against Kilmarnock & Saint Mirren) out of the 4 games Craig Levein has been incharge.
Birthday boy Derek Stillie will be hoping to make it 3 out of 5, but with Hibernian's attacking mentality, it will be very difficult and probably unlikely he will success.
The main problem for Dundee United is upfront, where the side have struggled to find the net, even when Barry Robson and Craig Conway are creating chance after chance with some great crosses.
Prediction: Hibernian 3-1 Dundee United, home win.
9th December 2006
Dundee United vs Inverness Caley Thistle
Rangers vs Hibernian
Dundee United will be hoping for their 4th home win on the trot against Caley Thistle next weekend, whilst Hibs have an interesting tie against Rangers at Ibrox.
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Date:Friday December 1 2006
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