St Mirren V Dundee Utd at St Mirren Park : Match Preview
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McAusland hoping for recall
St Mirren defender Marc McAusland paid the price for a dire showing at Pittodrie when he surrendered his place - now he hopes to win it back after his team-mates were humbled by Motherwell.
The big centre-half was dropped by boss Danny Lennon for Saturday's Fir Park fixture after his blunder gifted Scott Vernon the opener in last week's 2-0 defeat to Aberdeen.
He was responsible for another four opportunities the Dons should have done better with and was punished as Lee Mair took his place against Well.
But that line-up change failed to produce the result Lennon was looking for, with the Paisley men culpable for their own downfall in a 3-0 loss to Stuart McCall's side.
Now McAusland hopes that defeat may hand him a reprieve against Dundee United on Boxing Day.
"It's down to the manager at the end of the day," said the 25-year-old. "But if I'm performing well in training the gaffer will see that and hopefully it will be enough to get me back in.
"I had a poor game up at Aberdeen and that is why I was not picked for Motherwell. But the performance and the result there leaves a window for me to get back in.
"For a while when we were short on cover you knew you would be playing regardless of your performance but now we have great competition for places.
"They boys are all training well and that makes it harder to stay in the team. If you're not performing then you'll be dropped and that's what happened to me last week."
It took Saints eight games to finally register their first Scottish Premiership victory of the new campaign as they beat Hearts at Tynecastle at the start of October.
That Gorgie win teed up a run of nine games with just one league defeat - a 4-0 thrashing by United.
But having shipped five goals without reply against the Dons and Motherwell, McAusland says St Mirren can not afford to lose for a second time to Jackie McNamara's men if they want to keep their top six ambitions on track.
He said: "We had a challenging start to the season when we didn't pick up many points. But then we went on a wee run and moved up the table.
"But we've lost these last two games and we do not want to get dragged back down towards the bottom of the league again. Hopefully come Thursday we can turn it around."
However, McAusland admits he would rather the Buddies were not facing the red-hot Tannadice side next after watching United blast 22 goals while stretching their winning streak to six games,.
"United are a side you want to avoid right now," he admitted. "They are on form and scoring a lot of goals. They are hard to break down and hard to beat.
"But if we can apply ourselves and put a performance on we can definitely pick up points at home."
United's resurgence has been thanks largely to the efforts of youngsters like Ryan Gauld, Stuart Armstrong and Andrew Robertson.
Saturday's 1-0 win over Ross County saw them move into second place but McAusland does not believe they can rein in leaders Celtic - who top the table with a 10 point lead - just yet.
"It's brilliant for Dundee United's youth development system that these guys are coming through," he said. "They must be really proud of the lads they are bringing through.
"All credit to them, they deserve to be where they are in the table.
"They are all still young boys and if in seasons to come they can hold on to a few of them, they can definitely make a challenge to Celtic.
"Obviously money-wise, Celtic are a lot stronger but if Dundee United can keep going, then the boys are talented enough that I don't see many people stopping them.
"For me, Celtic will win the league this year but United and Aberdeen are the sides the rest of us have to look at catching."
Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara believes his on-form side face as tough a Boxing Day fixture as they could get when they travel to St Mirren.
The Tangerines are riding high in the Scottish Premiership as they sit second following last weekend's narrow 1-0 victory over Ross County at Tannadice.
Danny Lennon's eighth-placed Buddies are their opponents on Thursday but while United are in a rich vein of form with six straight wins to their credit, McNamara is convinced their trip to Paisley promises to be a demanding 90 minutes.
McNamara said: "We will have every respect for St Mirren. They like to get the ball down and play like ourselves so it should be open in that respect.
"We're on a good run of form right now but we know what St Mirren are capable of on their day.
"We'll need to be wary of them and we will be because our aim is to keep this run going.
"There are no easy games in this division and that will definitely be the case when we go through there on Wednesday."
United have been attracting big crowds of late, with over 8,000 witnessing their win against County, so McNamara hopes they travel to Paisley in numbers to roar their side on to another victory.
He said: "We had a great attendance for the County game.
"They can be like an extra man by creating the sort of atmosphere the players respond to on the pitch.
"We're hoping to have a decent-size following through for the St Mirren game because it can make all the difference.
"They're liking what they're seeing from the lads so long may that continue."
United face a hectic festive period with games against St Johnstone and Aberdeen coming hard on the heels of Thursday's clash.
And McNamara said: "The players are relishing it.
"The games are coming thick and fast but we'll just focus on one at a time and see where that takes us.
"St Mirren will be tough to start with but we should be confident going into it given our recent results."
Winger Gary Mackay-Steven has a knock which forced him to miss training on Tuesday but United hope both he and full-back Keith Watson will be fit in time to face the Buddies.
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