They may be hurting but Dundee United defender Mark Connolly believes Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Arbroath could be the reality check they need to seal Championship glory.
Craig Wighton got the only goal at Tannadice as the Red Lichties pulled off their best result of what has been a remarkable first season back in the second tier (see video below).
The striker’s goal led Arbroath to their first league win against United at Tannadice since November 1958.
However, it was a different story altogether for the Tangerines as they slumped to their first home league loss since March last year and ended their 13-game unbeaten Championship run in the process.
Those facts aside, centre-half Connolly insists United simply weren’t good enough.
And, after some soul-searching in the dressing-room, the Irishman is hoping they can use their disappointment as fuel to seal the title and Premiership promotion.
Connolly points to their last league defeat at Queen of the South, which sparked a terrific run and helped the Terrors to open up a 17-point gap at the top, as proof they can hit form again.
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“It’s frustrating but I think we’ve got to take a step back and look at how well we’ve done this season,” the 28-year-old said.
“It’s been incredible the runs we’ve been on. We’re not going to win every game, there’s going to be blips this season and there has been already.
“I think when we were questioned before, we showed as a squad how we react to that and it’s just the exact same again.
“We’ve been on a fantastic run and getting all the praise for how well we’ve been doing but Saturday we didn’t get the result we wanted.
“It’s a wee bit of a reality check and we just need to get going again. We’re in all through the week with no game at the weekend so there’s time to put it right.
“We’re hurting over the result but we’ve got to look back at how well we’ve been doing.
“The last time we lost was at Queen of the South and we then went on to go 13 unbeaten.
“We’ve got to look at that and get back on track. We’ve done it before and I’m sure we’ll do it again.
“We’re disappointed because, again, it wasn’t good enough to win the game.
“Credit to Arbroath, though, they came with a game plan, got their goal and sat in.
“We just weren’t good enough to break them down so it’s a bit of a kick up the backside really.
“We’ve got to get our heads down and back on a run of form like we had before.”
United’s next Championship assignment is a trip to Alloa a week on Friday and Connolly is urging everyone connected with the club to back them in the face of what is relative adversity for this season’s side after their Scottish Cup exit and mini-slump in the league.
“We’ve got to stick together and that includes the fans,” he added.
“We’re top of the table and 17 points clear so we’ve got to take the positives.
“It’s difficult because we’re expected to win every game, that’s fair enough because it’s the challenge you have at this football club, but we have to react.
“The fans have been with us all season and I’m sure they’ll stick by us.
“They’ve been fantastic all season. We’ve had a blip on Saturday but I’m sure they’ll be backing us in numbers at Alloa.”
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Osman Sow was carried off on a stretcher on Saturday with what has now been confirmed as a season-ending Achilles injury for the United striker.
Connolly, no stranger to the treatment table himself, has offered support to the Swede.
“Injuries are difficult and the big guy’s been very unlucky.
“He’s a superb player and an even better guy. Obviously, I’m gutted for him.”