Dundee United’s biggest task this summer is to keep their heads up and use Saturday’s penalty shootout heartache as fuel to fire them to the title, says defender Paul Watson.
The Tangerines are facing yet another year in the Championship after falling at the very last hurdle with a play-off defeat to St Mirren on penalty kicks.
In each of the last three attempts, United have had to try to plot a route to the Premiership via the play-offs and each time fallen short.
Watson may be in his first season at Tannadice but he knows only too well what a painful defeat in the final can do for the following campaign.
He was part of the Falkirk side who beat Kilmarnock in the first leg back in 2016 but lost out at Rugby Park in the second 4-0.
And the hangover the Bairns felt after that is something United can’t afford to let happen.
The gutted full-back told the Tele: “Looking back we came strong too late in the season.
“We got close but next season we’ll be confident.
“I found when I lost the last final when I was with Falkirk it took us too long to bounce back.
“We came back in pre-season with our heads down and started the campaign really poorly.
“This group will be different, though – we can’t allow that to happen.
“We’ll go and rest now but we need to use this disappointment as fuel to fire us on next season.
He added: “The play-offs are so balanced in favour of the Premiership team.
“That’s my second final I’ve lost now.
“We’ll definitely be looking to win the league next season, that is the main priority.”
The club’s new chairman Mark Ogren had already stated last week that promotion at the first time of asking under his rule wasn’t the be all and end all for him.
He vowed the Tangerines would regroup and push for the title next season – something Watson reckons they’ll be big favourites for.
“We’ve got to fancy ourselves as the best team in the Championship next season,” he added.
“Obviously Dundee will be in there and it will be good to get the derby and they’ll fancy themselves but we are there to win it next season.
“The chairman was with us in the week, with us in the hotel and then in the dressing-room.
“He has great belief in the whole group and he backs us.
“The club is in good hands with him and I’m sure we’ll be back in the Premiership before long.
“We’ll bring players in again, it’s a big club and we’ve got to use it as fuel to fire us on next year.”
The tie came down to fine margins with the teams unable to be separated for 210 minutes of football.
The entire season for both teams boiled down to a penalty shootout with St Mirren holding their nerve far better than their opponents as United missed all four of theirs to lose out 2-0.
Watson said: “It was obviously very deflated in the dressing-room.
“It’s the worst way to lose a game of football.
“We rode our luck at times during the game, they had a few chances but you’re always thinking you’re going to nick it and we believed we were going to win it.
“When it goes to penalties you have to back your goalkeeper – Benjy Siegrist was outstanding again in the game.
“We practiced penalties and the boys were brilliant but it’s totally different.
“There’s so much at stake and you’re so tense and nervous.
“Full credit to the boys who took them, they showed real bravery but it just wasn’t to be for us.”