So much for the theory that this was the perfect time to play Ayr United.
Without a win in six games and embarrassed by a neighbouring junior team in the Scottish Cup a few days ago, Ian McCall’s side did what they do best – beat Dundee United.
For the third time this season the Tangerines have lost to their Championship title rivals, with the combined score now up to 8-0.
And, though the first two encounters were far more convincing victories for Ayr than this one, the third was also deserved.
They dealt with the miserable conditions better and an early Craig Moore goal proved to be enough.
United are still a work in progress and will now have to regain their momentum as they did after their last defeat to Ayr.
Young Bournemouth right-back Charlie Seaman was only signed on loan on Thursday but Neilson put him straight into his starting line-up in place of Paul Watson. The only other change to the side which knocked Montrose out of the cup last weekend was skipper Fraser Fyvie returning at the expense of Aidan Nesbitt.
The first name the United players and fans would have looked for in the Ayr team would have been Lawrence Shankland but he was only fit enough to make the bench.
Ayr caused United all sort of problems down the left in the 5-0 at Tannadice and they were keen to get to work on that side of the pitch at every opportunity this time as well.
On three minutes Robbie Crawford drilled a low ball from there into the box but Benjamin Siegrist gathered cleanly.
Seconds later, though, he was picking the ball out the back of his net.
Declan McDaid sent over a cross from the left beyond the back post where Andy Murdoch was wise enough to not go for goal from the tight angle. Instead he cushioned a header into the path of Moore, who swept the ball home from close range.
With a strong wind at their backs and an early goal in the bank, Ayr were on the hunt for a second.
The ball dropped nicely for Crawford in the box but he lashed a first time volley high over the bar.
On 17 minutes Siegrist’s good positioning saved United when he was able to rush out of his box to beat MIchael Moffat in a foot race as the Ayr man dashed clear of the outfield defenders.
The ferocity of the wind was highlighted by the fact that when Ayr won a free-kick about 35 yards out, McDaid opted to shoot – straight into the wall, thankfully for the Tangerines.
Ayr were pinning United back and it came as a welcome relief when a ball out of defence aimed at Pavol Safranko resulted in the lone striker being taken down on the half-way line by Michael Rose, who was booked for the challenge.
The respite didn’t last long, however.
Just before the half-hour mark the ball was back in the United box – this time from the right. Liam Smith’s inswinging cross was met by Murdoch but his glancing header didn’t have enough on it to find the target.
On 34 minutes the Ayr fans were baying for Rachid Bouhenna to be sent off for grabbing Moore as the pair tried to get to a loose ball 30 yards from goal. The player himself didn’t appear to be too upset with referee Don Robertson’s decision to wave play on.
There were 40 minutes on the clock by the time United had a shot on goal. It came from Cammy Smith but didn’t trouble Ayr keeper Ross Doohan.
Going into the break just one down was far from a disaster for Neilson’s men – providing they were able to take advantage of the conditions in the second half.
That theory looked dubious when Ayr were first to threaten after the re-start, mind you.
Daniel Harvie cut in from the left and threaded a ball through the heart of the United defence for Moore. His close-range shot was saved by Siegrist and the assistant referee’s flag went up for offside anyway.
The first example of the Tangerines mastering the elements came on 53 minutes when Safranko got in behind the Ayr defence and nearly drew a foul from Doohan in the box. The keeper just got a touch on the ball to take it out for a corner, which then went into the side-netting.
Neilson made a double substitution on the hour – Ian Harkes and Nicky Clark for Fyvie and Sam Stanton.
Seaman didn’t get much chance to show his attacking qualities in the first half but he did well to win a corner through his strong running on 65 minutes.
Cammy Smith took it and Frederic Frans should have done better with his header from eight yards, which went wide.
McCall waited until the 67th minute to bring Shankland on.
United were the team on top by this stage and when Clark wriggled free of Steven Bell in the box, his shot was smothered by Doohan.
It wasn’t one-way traffic, though. On 76 minutes Shankland was put through but Siegrist was alert and mopped up.
The last throw of the dice for Neilson was Aidan Nesbitt replacing Safranko.
With his first touch Nesbitt took down a Paul McMullan cross but his second touch was saved by Doohan. Had he been on the pitch longer, he may well have scored.
Ayr held on for the win and United’s evening culminated in Morgaro Gomis being red carded late on for a second booking.
Ayr United – Doohan, Harvie, Rose, Moffat, Crawford, Moore (Shankland 67), McDaid, Bell, Murdoch, Docherty, Smith. Subs not used – Hare-Reid, Higgins, Hilton, Ecrepont, McCowan, Muirhead.
Dundee United – Siegrist, Booth, Frans, McMullan, Fyvie (Harkes 60), Stanton (Clark 60), Gomis, Safranko (Nesbitt 82), Bouhenna, C Smith, Seaman. Subs not used – Laidlaw, King, Robson, Watson.
Referee – Don Robertson.
Attendance – 2,232.