“We’ve taken the pats on the back, we now need to take the slap.”
Robbie Neilson post-match last night at Tannadice was open and honest with his assessment of our capitulation to Ayr United. We would be stupid to assume that United could win every game between now and the end of the season but the manner of our defeat and the attitude of the team last night was absolutely not good enough and highly embarrassing. The players all went missing and it felt like we had returned to the type of performance normally reserved for our previous manager. We lost FIVE goals at home AGAIN and it not only sets us back on points but it destroys our goal difference and more worryingly, it may also have a massive impact on the team’s confidence. Neilson has to sort that out over the next few days and get his players ready for next week.
Ayr United, a side who put on an excellent display last-night, are now sitting six points (and a barrowload of goals) ahead of us this morning and it will take another long run of good results from us to get ourselves back into contention. Make no mistake, there are players in this United squad that are simply not good enough and Ayr exploited those weaknesses with devastating effect last night.
The shape used by McCall and the ability Ayr had filling the entire pitch meant that United needed to be clever with the ball and highly effective moving forward. We were badly exposed down our right-hand side and our midfield, normally our strong point, went missing. The pace and power of Lawrence Shankland was far too much for ‘Edge’ and Bouhenna and upfront Safranko cut a lonely and frustrated figure as the three behind him failed to help create any chances. We also made an astounding amount of individual errors and it felt like some players had no idea what was going on giving their positioning and decision-making.
It was a hugely disappointing evening given the build-up and the positivity amongst the fans. The supporters turned up, the flags were out and the team let us all down. My worry in all of that is the hundreds of fans who wouldn’t normally come who are maybe now going to think twice about returning anytime soon.
Robbie Neilson now faces his biggest test since joining United. He will have found out a lot about the mentality of some our players and he will now also realise once and for all that there are two or three positions that badly need strengthened in January. Last night might give him more ammunition for negotiations with the board and if the rumoured American takeover does go through then the pressure will be on them to make a statement by freeing up funds for a January shopping list.
What happened last night feels like peak United. Big game, big pressure, big crowd and we don’t turn up. It has been a feature of the club for a number of years now and it must change.
As Neilson said post-match, if we can take the compliments we must now also take the slap in the face and learn from it. Whether we do or not remains to be seen.
Player Ratings – N/A
Man of the Match – N/A
Up Next – We travel to Cappielow next Saturday and there is no room for error as we aim to get back on track. On paper the game against Morton has been timed quite well given their up and down form. We should feel that it is a winnable game and Neilson needs to work with his squad this week in building confidence. He will also need to think about a few changes in personnel given the performance levels last night.
Response is the key. The players now need to stand up and be counted.