Nobody is happy losing a cup final, whether it’s the nation’s premier knockout competition or one exclusively for the lower leagues. But for both St Mirren and Dundee United, the bigger picture dwarfed the significance of who emerged victorious from Saturday’s Irn-Bru Cup showdown.
In the end, both clubs talked up the positives from the match, which United won thanks to goals by Anthony Andreu and Thomas Mikkelsen either side of a Rory Loy strike, as they each hope the game will act as a springboard for the rest of their league campaign with plenty still to fight for at both ends of the table.
Dundee United, with only one league victory since beating the Buddies on Christmas Eve, will be looking to harvest the confidence from this victory to get themselves back in the promotion chase. If they can’t catch Hibs, who lead the Tannadice side by 14 points, then climbing back above Morton and Falkirk would be a massive lift prior to the start of the play-offs.
St Mirren, meanwhile, will try to use their performance to reinforce newly-acquired belief within the squad that they don’t belong at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Championship table.
The Paisley club had won six of their previous nine games in all competitions going into the final, including a win over United ten days prior, and used the momentum to dominate most of the opening period.
Had they been able to take one of three great chances before Andreu’s terrific opener then it may have been a different story. But they failed to build on their performance after the break and couldn’t break through the United rearguard after Mikkelsen headed the pre-match favourites back in front.
“You want to send the fans away happy so they can enjoy their night, so it’s a bit heartbreaking and it’s not a feeling that I want to experience again,” said midfielder Stephen Mallan, pictured.
“It’s important for us to remember it and use it to spur us on in the league.
“We are excited about how we’ve been doing with our league form. That is what’s more important to us.
“The gaffer told us after the game to keep our heads up. He told us this feeling might actually be a good thing for us because, at the end of the season, we will be desperate to make sure we don’t feel like this again.
“We have games against Ayr and Dumbarton. It’s a huge fortnight for us. Everybody knows we have to win both games.
“St Mirren shouldn’t be getting relegated and we will be doing everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen.
“Teams don’t look at us as the bottom team anymore. They look at us as St Mirren. It feels like the club has its identity back again.”
It’s time, also, for Dundee United to regain the menace they had earlier in the season when they reeled off seven consecutive victories and three months undefeated.
If they can get a few more masterful performances from talisman Andreu then they have a chance. The Frenchman was named the final’s man of the match, having given his side the lead with a tremendous first-time volley from 20 yards.
Andreu played a huge part in Hamilton Accies winning the play-off final in 2014, and past experience tells him it’s far too early to give up hope of doing the same with United.
“I know better than most that you can never say it’s over. Everyone said that after Hamilton lost to Hibs. We were 2-0 down and we came back,” said the scorer of Accies’ equaliser on that famous day.
“It’s good to win the cup for everyone involved in the club, but is it going to help us going forward? Definitely.”