Jim Goodwin is optimistic that striker Steven Fletcher could return from injury for Dundee United’s crucial relegation battle against Kilmarnock on Wednesday.
Fletcher sat out Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Livingston with a groin problem amid suggestions his season could be over.
However, the 36-year-old could be back in action in midweek as United chase the victory they need in their bid to beat the drop.
The Tangerines, who had Aziz Behich sent-off for two yellow cards, were left two points adrift at the foot of the Premiership after Ian Harkes’ stunning volley was sandwiched by goals from Livingston pair Bruce Anderson and James Penrice.
But, with Killie and Ross County also both losing, the Tannadice outfit know victory on Wednesday will lift them off the bottom and boost their chances of staying in the top-flight.
On the other hand, defeat – coupled with a win for County against St Johnstone – will see them drop back down into the Championship just three years after promotion in 2020.
And Goodwin admits Fletcher’s return would make a massive difference to his side at a critical time.
He said: “I think in a game like Saturday against Livingston, when physicality is a big thing, he would have been important.
“Young [Rory] Macleod worked his socks off up front in fairness to him. He’s a 17-year-old academy prospect who we have extremely high hopes for, but it does change the game-plan a little bit.
“Fletch leads the line well, he’s an experienced player. When the ball goes forward it tends to stick with him and he brings other people into the game.
“We had to adapt without him but that’s what football is all about.
“Teams all over the country have to go without their key players. It’s just how you adapt and adjust thereafter.
“He will be touch and go for Wednesday. It’s not a major injury but it was enough to keep him out of Saturday’s game.
“If he could have played through the pain barrier he would have, but with a groin strain it’s extremely difficult.”
United started brightly but went behind on 10 minutes when Anderson cashed in on a defensive misunderstanding and, despite levelling through Harkes’ stunner, Penrice fired home what turned out to be the winner on 59 minutes.
Behich was then red carded for two bookings just eight minutes apart as an increasingly scrappy game slipped away from the visitors.
It was a win that arrested a three-game losing streak for Livi, who were already safe from relegation but played with fight and determination.
Manager David Martindale said: “What you find at this point in the season is – when you’re playing teams in around relegation, which is what basically the bottom six is – the football kind of goes out the window and it becomes a wee bit risk averse, for obvious reasons.
“Part of the plan is to put the opposition under pressure as much as possible – and how you get the ball up to that offensive third is kind of irrelevant at times.”