Defender Liam Smith knows Dundee United must get off to a fast start against Arbroath on Saturday if they are to bounce back to form.
United started last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Ayr United sluggishly and the full-back insists they need to make sure they perform for 90 minutes when the Red Lichties come calling at Tannadice.
The loss at Somerset Park saw The Honest Men rise up to join the Tangerines at the top of the Championship pile.
With both now sitting on 12 points, United know they blew a chance to open up a gap to Ayr and others at the second-tier summit.
However, the 23-year-old former Hearts and Ayr man hopes they can take a second bite at that cherry and stay top with victory on Saturday.
“The first-half performance was nowhere near good enough,” Smith said.
“Second half we were better. If we want to win a league we have to perform as we did in the second half but for 90 minutes.
“We know it’s going to be a hard league. We’re sitting at the top of it. If we’d lost the first game of the season and won our next four the atmosphere would be different and the questions would be different.
“We hope to stay at the top. We’ve had a wee dip but, over the course of a season, there will be more dips like this. We have to make sure we beat Arbroath on Saturday.”
Going back to his former stomping ground on the Ayrshire coast, Smith knew he and another ex-Ayr man Lawrence Shankland were going to be under the spotlight wearing tangerine.
He accepts they didn’t perform and makes no excuses for himself or anyone else at the Terrors, who know all about the threat and quality of The Honest Men.
United lost both of their visits there last season when Smith and Shankland were among the Somerset tormentors-in-chief.
Smith added: “From first-hand experience I know Ayr’s philosophy going into every game, particularly playing against Dundee United, who they did well against last season.
“They would have been keen to keep that going. Me, Shanks and the other boys knew that they have a squad of good players.
“Fair play to them but we didn’t do enough. We didn’t compete and put our stamp on the game. We didn’t deserve to take anything.”
Right-back Smith accepts they can’t expect to win every game this season but believes it was the performance which angered those connected with United most.
Ayr controlled proceedings for most of the 90 minutes and Smith believes they can only look at themselves as they seek to get back to winning ways in their quest for promotion.
“You can’t win every game but the manner in which we lost was not acceptable,” he said.
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“We didn’t turn up and Ayr took advantage. They are a good side and we can’t afford to take our foot off the gas at any point.
“The second half was better. In the first half, we were outworked, which can’t happen.
“First and foremost, we need to look at ourselves.
“I don’t think we passed the ball enough, which is what we’ve been doing for the first four games. We’ll pick ourselves up and see what we need to improve.”
Smith was involved in the concession of both the goals at Ayr last weekend and has held his hands up for his involvement in Daniel Harvie’s opener and Alan Forrest’s penalty which sealed the points.
“They were both straight balls,” he reflected. “The second goal, I’ve given away the penalty so I need to hold my hands up for that. No complaints.”