This was meant to be the trophy they didn’t want to win but, whisper it, Dundee United and their fans had a ball at Fir Park on Saturday.
A grand day out in the spring sunshine ended with 3,000 supporters cheering the Tangerines as they lifted the Irn-Bru Cup after beating St Mirren in an entertaining final.
Ideally, United would prefer not to be competing for this particular piece of silverware. Life in the Premiership is much preferable to the Championship, cup or no cup.
However, as the Tannadice men continue to, as manager Ray McKinnon poignantly put it, bear the “scar” of relegation this is their reality and they have to deal with it as best they can.
That means pushing for a place in the play-offs in the remaining weeks of the season along with Falkirk and Morton, with Hibs’ last-gasp win over the Bairns at the weekend all but securing them the Easter Road men the title.
It also means enjoying what they achieved on Saturday and there were plenty of smiles on show in Motherwell.
One belonged to McKinnon, who said: “I am extremely delighted for everybody.
“It has been a tough journey for the fans over the last year.
“Relegation has left a scar so hopefully this is just part of repaying the supporters for their patience and loyalty.
“I am delighted to give them a trophy and I am also delighted for the players.
“We have shot ourselves in the foot in recent games and we had another example of that after we scored our goal but we kept calm, stayed on message and passed the ball.
“I thought they were excellent and, hopefully, the guys can take confidence from this.
“I think confidence comes from passing the ball and it was important that we got back to that.
“We didn’t resort to long balls and hopeful play.
“I think the players responded fantastically to that and hopefully we can take that into the rest of the season.”
It was a terrific header from substitute Thomas Mikkelsen that provided the final fizz for United.
It was a winner made, not from girders, but from a perfect cross from Simon Murray, who had been moved wide left when Mikkelsen came off the bench.
It that was good then the opening goal from star man Tony Andreu was phenomenal.
The flamboyant Frenchman smashed the ball into the net on 37 minutes, only for United to lose their advantage within a minute when Rory Loy levelled for the Buddies.
McKinnon revealed that he always knew Andreu would find the net but got the order wrong.
The United boss added: “I said to Tony before the game that he would score the winner.
“He didn’t do that but he did score an incredible goal.
“I am surprised he didn’t get another one because he has such quality.
“I anybody has the ability to do that then it’s Tony.
“It was instinctive and what a finish!
“I thought both goals were excellent goals, though.
“Bringing Thomas on gave us threat in the box but we still had to get the ball to him.
“To be fair to Simon, it was tremendous cross.
“He has done it before for Thomas and it was a great header to win the game.”
Following a perfectly-observed minute’s silence in memory of those who murdered in the terrorist atrocity in London, Murray got the action under way for United.
Ali Coote, playing wide right on his first start for United, began as he meant to go on and drove his side forward.
The first serious attempt on goal was from his teammate Andreu but he pulled his shot wide on three minutes.
On 11 minutes, Murray cut inside from the right then unleashed a left-foot shot that wasn’t too far away.
Stephen Mallan blasted a freekick over the bar for St Mirren then there was a huge scare for United on 20 minutes.
On-loan Dundee frontman Loy came oh so close to getting the opener for the Buddies when he clipped the post with a shot.
It got even scarier four minutes later when the United defence was opened up by Lewis Morgan, who broke clear and took the ball to the right before sliding his low shot past keeper Bell and – thankfully for McKinnon’s men – wide of the far post.
United were looking a bit ragged now and had to get up the park.
They did so with some menace on 26 minutes, with Andreu’s sweet strike from the edge of the area a sign of things to come.
On 35 minutes, a cross from Kyle Magennis was allowed to fly right in front of United’s goal then, with the danger not cleared, keeper Cammy Bell was the hero as he raced out to save from close range from Magennis.
The match needed a bit of magic to spice it up and that certain je ne sais quoi was provided by Andreu, who volleyed United into a spectacular lead on 37 minutes after his initial cross was blocked.
It was a brilliant first-time effort from 22 yards from the Frenchman that left Buddies keeper Billy O’Brien floundering.
However, United being United they let themselves down in defence just 60 seconds after going in front.
At a time when they had to stay focused, the backline was breached by Loy, who beat Bell with a low shot that went just inside the keeper’s left-hand post to make it 1-1.
Saints got the second period started but United were first up the park, with Andreu hooking a left-foot volley over the bar.
On 54 minutes, Murray raced forward up the left after being picked out by a crossfield pass from Andreu but his shot was blocked.
United brought on Mikkelsen for the ineffective Nick van der Velden just short of the hour mark then Charlie Telfer burst forward before clipping the ball over the St Mirren bar.
With 66 minutes on the clock, the Tangerines had a decent chance created by Murray but when the striker played in Mikkelsen the Dane couldn’t reach the ball before keeper O’Brien.
Mikkelsen was to be the hero, though, on 75 minutes as United regained their lead.
It was a great move that saw a cushioned ball from Andreu reach Murray on the left. The former Arbroath man took a touch before sending over a superb ball right into the heart of the goalmouth that was headed home by the sub.
Andreu fired over from the edge of the box then Mikkelsen blasted into the side-netting as United continued to press forward.
Coote, who had a terrific match, almost wrapped things up for his side when he fired just wide then had a shot saved by O’Brien.
Sub Alex Nicholls also came close in stoppage-time when his shot curled just past the post.
The Buddies battled away in the five minutes of added time but this was United’s trophy and, let’s face it, you don’t lift a cup every day.