It had all started so well for Dundee United against unbeaten Premiership leaders Rangers at Ibrox yesterday.
So much so, in fact, you would be forgiven for asking yourself: “They couldn’t, could they?”
Could newly-promoted United, sat in seventh spot, enter the lions’ den and escape with all three points, inflicting a first league loss of the season on Steven Gerrard’s men?
The answer, unfortunately, was no as the Gers ran out 4-1 winners in the Glasgow sunshine thanks to goals from Ianis Hagi, Ryan Kent, Joe Aribo and Alfredo Morelos.
Marc McNulty, on as a second-half substitute, grabbed a late consolation for the Tangerines on 86 minutes.
It was only the second league goal the Light Blues had conceded at Ibrox all season. That has to go down as a win for United, surely?
Positive United pinned back league leaders in early stages
In all seriousness, though, the Terrors didn’t half give their illustrious opponents a scare.
Micky Mellon’s men dominated the opening half an hour of action in Govan, with frontmen Lawrence Shankland, Nicky Clark and Louis Appere keeping Allan McGregor busy between the sticks.
Scotland star Shankland was the first to threaten experienced No 1 McGregor, bursting into the box on nine minutes but taking a heavy touch before seeing the ball smothered by the 39-year-old.
Youngster Appere led the line well for the visitors, keeping McGregor honest as he rushed out to deny the 21-year-old forward a glorious opportunity.
Appere fired an enticing ball across the six-yard box on 20 minutes but there were no takers in tangerine as the visitors kept up the pressure.
On the half-hour mark, Shankland’s cute flick found Clark as the Tangerines moved forward at pace.
United’s No 10 picked out Appere who unleased a stinging effort McGregor had to spring across his line to palm away.
Touch of good fortune for Light Blues as they storm to another victory
The match turned soon after that as first Hagi and then Kent saw deflected efforts nestle in the back of the net. Both were harsh on United – who had dominated until that point.
Despite going in two goals down at the half, Mellon was pleased with how his side equipped themselves against the Light Blues.
“If you’re going to come to Rangers and be successful, creating that amount of chances, you have to take them,” he said.
“What we’ll take away from it is we were good enough to create those chances but we understand if you’re going to be a team challenging at the right end of the table you have to be clinical.
“It’s as simple as that.
“You need to give yourself a goal start. You’re playing against the team at the top and they’re there because they get those goals going in.
“We’ll build on it and work on the things we need to do to get better.
“In terms of where we are as a club trying to move forward, there were a lot of pleasing things in that performance.
“The work rate was very good but, at times, you have to understand Rangers have players worth millions and they’re going to punish you at some stage.
“We showed progression and, if we can cut the wee mistakes out, we’ll move on again.”
McNulty strike ultimately in vain for plucky Terrors
The second period was a different story altogether, however, as the Teddy Bears showed their class and exactly why they’re champions-elect – now 18 points clear of Celtic at the top of the table.
Aribo lashed in the hosts’ third on 48 minutes, crashing his left-foot strike into the top corner way beyond the reach of a despairing Siegrist.
It was four on 64 minutes as Morelos charged down an attempted clearance from the Swiss stopper inside the area and the ball trundled into the back of the net.
It could’ve been five soon after as referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot after Jeando Fuchs brought down Morelos inside the area.
However, Siegrist made amends for his earlier mistake, stooping to deny Borna Barisic from the spot.
The Terrors were able to pull one back as McNulty poked an effort beyond McGregor with four minutes remaining.
Terrors should go into Killie clash full of confidence
It was too little, too late for United, who remain in seventh spot, a point behind St Mirren in the race for the top six.
They’ll go into this weekend’s match at struggling Kilmarnock full of confidence, though, after recent wins over Ross County and Livingston as well as making a decent account of themselves at Ibrox.
The scoreline was harsh on the Tangerines and boss Mellon believes they showed all the qualities needed to get into the top six with three games remaining until the split.
He added: “I think if we perform like we did on Sunday and show the qualities and work rate we did, undoubtedly we will be a force in the Scottish Premiership.
“We have to keep the levels up. It’s a team that’s just come up and standards are getting set all the time.
“A new one got set on Sunday and we won’t allow them to go below that.
“We go into the next game against Kilmarnock and, if we hit those levels, then I’m sure we’ll give ourselves a good chance of winning games of football.”