Robbie Neilson urges Dundee United fans to stay positive despite Ayr set-back

Dundee United central defender Rachid Bouhenna chases down Ayr striker Michael Moffat in the Honest Men’s 1-0 victory at a windswept Somerset Park on Friday night
Dundee United central defender Rachid Bouhenna chases down Ayr striker Michael Moffat in the Honest Men’s 1-0 victory at a windswept Somerset Park on Friday night

Dundee United boss Robbie Neilson has urged Arabs to be “positive” over their team’s chances this season despite another setback to their promotion bid.

The 1-0 defeat away to Ayr United on Friday, the club’s third loss to the Honest Men this season, leaves the Tangerines six points behind leaders Ross County and three behind Ian McCall’s men with 14 games to play.

The Tannadice gaffer accepts that’s not an ideal situation, especially with Ayr having a game in hand, but he’s hopeful some new faces brought in this week can lift United into promotion contention.

He said: “It does leave us playing catch-up, we’re six points off it just now but we have to try to be positive.

“This time three months ago we were eight points off it.

“There are still a few days left of the window and we’re looking to recruit.

“We know what we need to get and Friday highlighted it again.

“We are actively trying to get them in.

“There are a few close but until this weekend’s fixtures a lot of teams are keeping hold of their squads and then we’ll get a lot of movement in Scotland and England.

“We have our targets and, hopefully, we can get them.”

Dundee United manager Robbie Neilson

One of the areas that need strengthening appears to be in defence after Robbie highlighted a key downfall in his side’s display.

The United boss admitted Ayr were deserved winners on Friday, a wind-swept contest with little quality that was won by an early strike by Craig Moore.

And the lack of “dominance” in the air from his backline was a chief reason in why they fell to defeat, according to the United boss.

“They were tough conditions, it was very tough to play in but credit to Ayr, they handled it a lot better than us,” Robbie added.

“I thought they competed and picked up the second balls a lot better, their back four were a lot more dominant in the air than our back four.

“Ultimately, that’s what determined who won and who lost.”

It was a match with little attacking quality and few chances.

In the opening half, the Tangerines only managed one meaningful effort on goal – a long-range dribbler from Cammy Smith that was easily snapped up by the home keeper.

Ayr completely dominated the opening period with the wind at their back but only had the one goal to show for it.

That would have given the United boss some encouragement at the break but his side failed to capitalise on the conditions in their favour and produced only two opportunities of note in the second half

First Nicky Clark scampered in behind but goalie Ross Doohan was quickly out to smother the chance.

And in the closing stages, the ball fell for substitute Aidan Nesbitt in the area but once more Doohan was there to save.

Robbie said: “We didn’t take control second half.

“In the first when we played long, their centre-halfs and full-backs were very dominant and put it back down our throat.

“In the second half, when they played long our centre-halfs weren’t dominant and neither were our full-backs so they got up the pitch, that was the most disappointing thing for me.

“It wasn’t a great game, I think everybody would agree, there won’t be any DVDs being made of it, that’s for sure.

“However, if you want to win titles you have to go to places like that and you have to deal with conditions, you have to be physical and win the second balls to get the three points and we didn’t do that on Friday.”