Csaba Laszlo’s first game in the Dundee United dugout was a rather embarrassing home defeat at the hands of Northern Irish side Crusaders.
This United side hardly resembled the team that will line up against Falkirk in the Championship a week tomorrow but the result still left some faces red at Tannadice.
They were poor in the first half and not much better in the second in this Irn-Bru Cup quarter-final.
The Tangerines took the lead on 55 minutes thanks to a great strike from captain Fraser Fyvie.
Crusaders, though, levelled on 68 minutes when Dave Cushley scored with a header before sub Gavin Whyte drilled the winner home two minutes into stoppage-time.
The target before kick-off was a semi-final place but, much more importantly, United were also searching for a feelgood start to Laszlo’s time in charge.
They didn’t get it but there will be some consolation that they don’t have to bother with this competition for the rest of the season.
Young United trio Graham Taylor, Gavin Ritchie and Jordan Hornby all kept their places from the previous cup-tie against Linfield.
The kick-off was delayed due to the late arrival of the men from Northern Ireland and the game finally started 15 minutes later than scheduled.
A stray pass from Hornby caused havoc in the United goalmouth after just three minutes but Paul Quinn stepped in to clear the danger.
That scare apart it was a quiet opening to the game, albeit the visitors were knocking the ball about with confidence.
On seven minutes, home defender William Edjenguele headed a corner goalwards but Crusaders keeper Brian Jensen gathered.
The visitors then had a chance on 28 minutes after Edjenguele conceded a freekick 25 yards from goal but United keeper Deniz got down well to hold Jordan Forsythe’s strike.
Cushley then broke clear for the Ulstermen on 34 minutes but he tried to an unimpressive chip and United goalie Deniz didn’t even have to go on his tip-toes to pluck the ball out of the air.
As the hosts continued to struggle to make any kind of impact on the tie, Mark McChrystal headed over at the back post for Crusaders.
United fans expected much better from their side after the break and the hosts made a change at half-time, bringing on Billy King for Scott Allardice.
Just four minutes after his arrival, King had the visitors on the back foot with a run into the box and the corner he won led to a McMullan shot that curled wide.
This was better form the Tangerines and they finally deserved the lead they got on 55 minutes thanks to Fyvie.
The ball fell to the captain 25 yards from goal and he blasted it into the top corner of the net, giving goalie Jensen no chance.
On 65 minutes, McMullan managed to squeeze in a shot but it didn’t have enough oomph and Jensen saved.
The Northern Irishmen were still in the game, though, and Hornby had to look lively to cut out a cutback from Jamie Glackin after the broke upfield in numbers.
From the resultant corner, Crusaders pulled themselves level.
Cushley, probably the smallest player on the pitch, got his head to Glackin’s cross and it was 1-1.
United went upfield a minute later and almost nudged ahead again when Jensen spilled a King shot onto his post.
It then needed a last-ditch tackle from United’s Quinn to block Glackin as he tried to shoot at goal after another Crusaders’ break.
Five minutes from the end of regulation time, Keatings sent a shot flying wide after being played in by McMullan.
Edjenguele nodded wide on 86 minutes following a McMullan corner then Patrick N’Koyi clipped the ball past the post when a goal looked on.
In stoppage-time at the end of the 90, King came close to winning it for United but his shot from the edge of the area was superbly saved by Jensen.
Three minutes into time added on, though, Crusaders grabbed the victory when sub Whyte fired past Deniz to start the celebrations among the small band of travelling supporters.
Dundee United: Deniz, Quinn, McMullan, N’Koyi, Edjenguele, Allardice (King 46), Keatings (Smith 89), Fyvie, Taylor, Ritchie, Hornby. Subs not used: Donaldson, Murdoch, Robson, Chalmers, Thomas.
Crusaders: Jensen, McChrystal, Beverland, Ward, Brown, McClean, Caddell (Burns 87), Forsythe, Snoddy (Whyte 61), Glackin (Owens 81), Cushley. Subs not used: Dougherty, Coates, Heatley, Kerr.
Referee: Robert Hennessy.