Scott Fraser has revealed how a half-time rant by Willo Flood inspired Dundee United to clinch a Premiership play-off semi-final clash with Livingston.
Flood let rip at the interval as Csaba Laszlo’s side were fortunate to be only 1-0 down in Friday night’s quarter-final second-leg tie with Dunfermline at Tannadice, where they could easily have found themselves 3-0 behind.
The fiery former Celtic and Aberdeen ace pulled no punches having watched the Tangerines toil for so much of a flat first half and his message didn’t fall on deaf ears as the Taysiders transformed themselves in the second-half.
Scott McDonald started the comeback and Sam Stanton sealed victory with a stunning winner having raced 50 yards before applying the finish to send the home fans wild.
“There were some strong words said at half-time,” said midfielder Fraser. “I think a lot of credit has to go to Willo because he had a lot to say. He was spot-on with everything he said.
“I wouldn’t say it was criticism from him, more that he was pointing out that we should expect more from ourselves.
“No offence to Dunfermline but we felt we were a better team than them but hadn’t shown that.
“The gaffer also had his say to settle us and we went out with some wise words ringing in our ears.
“We knew within those 45 minutes we could score two goals and so it proved.
“In the second half we got on top and reverted back to how we finished the first leg at East End Park.
“The introduction of big Tam [Mikkelsen] unsettled them and gave me and Scott McDonald more room in which to play.
“Thankfully, we managed to get the two goals we needed.
“I think you all saw the difference between the halves.”
The Tangerines will be aiming to start like they finished off on Friday night as they welcome Davie Hopkin’s Championship runners-up to Tannadice for tonight’s semi-final first leg tie.
Fraser said: “I think we have shown everyone what we can be capable of, not just in the play-offs but over the past few games going back to the St Mirren win, with the exception of the Queen of the South defeat, which is one we want to forget about.
“I think we have bounced back and looked like a good team at times.
“We have produced some big performances, at home especially, but the first half against Dunfermline wasn’t nearly good enough and we need to improve on Monday if we are to get through.
“It will be tough against Livingston. We know what they do. They are a big side who play their style well. We will have to come up with a few ideas to help us deal with that.
“The games are coming thick and fast and we know we are only through the first part of the play-offs. Hopefully, there are another two to go.”
Livingston goalkeeper Neil Alexander, meanwhile, admits he was initially reluctant to join the Lions because he feared being dragged into a demoralising relegation dogfight this season.
Ten months on, however, the vastly experienced former Rangers and Hearts player admits he made the right decision to cave in to constant calls from manager David Hopkin.
Despite having the third smallest budget in the Championship, Livingston defied all expectation to claim the runners-up place behind champions St Mirren.
The 40-year-old admits his concerns were quickly suppressed after joining from Aberdeen last July.
Alexander said: “They did fantastically well last season to get promoted but for the team coming up, your objective is to stay in the league.
“My reservations were: Is it going to be a relegation dogfight from minute one, would I be shipping three, four goals every game and really not enjoying it? But it couldn’t have been further from that to be honest. From very early, the first few training sessions and seeing the standard of the boys here, it was exceptional. We have some really good talented players here and that’s the first time I thought, ‘we’ve got a chance here’.
“The aim was to stay up and eighth would have been a fantastic season but the more games we played, you saw what the boys were capable of and then you thought: ‘we’ve got a chance here of doing something’. That’s the way it’s panned out and the boys have been phenomenal. I’ve enjoyed it because we’ve got such a strong spirit in the dressing room and I’ve enjoyed coming in and working every day.”
Livingston are desperate to continue defying the bookmakers’ odds by upsetting United at Tannadice tonight.
With Csaba Laszlo’s side already having had to negotiate that challenging quarter-final tie with Dunfermline, Alexander hopes an extended break can work in the Lions’ favour.
He added: “Second place was so vital because it gives you those two less games where you can rest and concentrate on your training.
“Hopefully it will stand us in good stead now. Dundee United have had two hard games now and hopefully we are the fitter and stronger team.
“But it’s on the night, who wants it more, who plays better, who doesn’t make the mistakes. Form goes out the window and it’s like a cup tie.
“This is what you play for. We’ve worked hard all season to get there, so hopefully we can make it count.
“To go and finish it off, you would go down in history at this club and, while we’re here, we’re going to give it our best shot.
“It’s going to be two tough home and away legs but we’re confident and looking forward to it.”
Alexander is hoping to experience more play-off glory having achieved promotion to the English Championship in 2003 with Cardiff City via the end-of-season deciders.
He added: “The time at Cardiff was brilliant because the game against Queens Park Rangers was at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the whole city was buzzing and there were 70,000 there.
“It was an unbelievable experience and to actually win it in your own town was phenomenal.”