Dundee United boss Robbie Neilson is viewing Saturday’s Challenge Cup exit as a reminder to his players they still have plenty work to do to get to where he wants them to be.
The Tangerines have a perfect record in the Championship but their four wins have now been sandwiched in between two cup exits – they went out of the Betfred Cup after losing to East Fife in July.
And while leaving the Challenge Cup after just one tie as they lost to Arbroath on penalties at Tannadice on Saturday was by no means a disaster, Robbie does want his men to take note.
“I think it’s important that we focus on the league but sometimes it’s good to get a reminder of where we are,” he said.
“We’ve still got a long way to go. We’re still vulnerable and we need to work hard to get results. We need to make sure we focus fully on Ayr now.”
With both sides fielding weakened teams, the tie went to penalties, leading to a 4-3 success for the visitors.
And, if he would have preferred to progress, the manager admitted being able to concentrate solely on league business between now and Scottish Cup involvement in January is a bonus.
“The focus right from the start of the season has been the league. It’s another distraction out of the way for us.
“And I thought it was a decent performance and we worked hard enough, we just couldn’t get that final bit and put the ball in the net.”
Most of all Robbie was pleased to see players who’ve been short of game time, get 90 minutes or close to it.
Top of that list was attacker Peter Pawlett, who got 80 minutes to follow up from the hour he played against Dundee eight days earlier.
After a summer blighted by knee injuries, he is now close to full match fitness.
“I think it was important to get some fitness in boys, rest some and make sure we didn’t get any injuries.
“I think it’s important for these guys – we have a long season.
“It’s important all the guys that maybe haven’t been regulars in the first four games in the league are ready to go when they get their chance. It was good to give them a run out.”