Robbie Neilson says the 5-0 home thumping dished out by Ayr is a “slap” Dundee United will have to take after “pats on the back all round” beforehand – now he’s determined to ensure his side respond.
The Honest Men were a level above their hosts on Friday night as they romped to victory with star striker Lawrence Shankland putting on a stellar four-goal performance.
The three points saw the league leaders stretch six points ahead of the Tangerines and Robbie acknowledges the display was “nowhere near acceptable”.
He said: “We’re hugely disappointed.
“It was an opportunity for us to put on a performance and show the fans how far we’ve come and we didn’t do it.
“We’ve had pats on the back all round for the last six weeks with some great results and we have to take the slap now that comes with a result like that.
“It’s part of football but this is the test now, not just for the team but the staff, the fans and everyone at the club whether we let this spiral, which it can do, or are we going to stick together.
“We have to make sure we go to Cappielow this Saturday and get three points because that ultimately is the only thing that is important in football, picking up three points.
“We didn’t do that on Friday, the performance was nowhere near acceptable, we know that but we have to move on.”
The manner of the late collapse, too, was a worry for the Tannadice gaffer with Michael Moffat scoring with 12 minutes to go and Shankland knocking in his third and fourth strikes in the final few minutes.
United had been completely outplayed throughout but to allow the visitors to run riot on their own patch angered their boss.
“The manner of the last three goals was very disappointing,” he said.
“At 2-0 we are still in the game, we had a wee period where we were doing alright and, if you get a goal in that period then it changes the game, but to then go three and four and five wasn’t good enough.
“It wasn’t acceptable and we know that.
“We know that as a group, I won’t single out anyone at all because we are a group, in the dressing-room and as a club as well.
“We’ve had some difficult periods over the past few years, this is another one, but how are we going to respond?
“Are we going to do what’s happened in the past and it spirals into the next game and the next game or are we going to go ‘it’s a blip, let’s move on and let’s go forward on Saturday’?”
And Neilson has challenged his players to join him in “digging it out” over the next few days to get themselves back on track at Greenock Morton this coming weekend – by that time, however, Ayr could be a further three points ahead if they can beat Inverness on Friday.
“You can crumble or you can dig it out. I’m one who will dig it out and I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of boys in that dressing-room who will do the same.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of fans who will dig it out with us as well down at Morton – that’s where we need them, we need them to come down and support us. We know the situation the club is in, it’s been tough the last few years.
“I believe we are on the right track but we will have bumps in the road – this was a boulder in the road.
“It’s how we react to it and that will tell a story but I’m confident we will.”
n The Tele understands Dundee United remain in advanced talks with an American consortium over a proposed takeover which could go through this week.