Livingston boss describes first-half performance against Dundee United as 'diabolical'

Livingston manager David Martindale was heavily critical of his team's sluggish start against Dundee United which he felt ultimately cost them a place in the quarter-finals of the Premier Sports Cup.

“I think the first half was diabolical,” he said after his team’s 2-1 defeat at the Tony Macaroni Arena. “We carried off where we ended the second half at Aberdeen and it's not good enough.

"You cannot come here and give teams a two-goal start and expect to win games. Any level of football that's never going to happen. But we can't start games like that. As individuals there has to be a want and desire.

"I thought they bullied us in the first half. I thought the two strikers up top bullied us, we struggled to get on to second balls in midfield and that was the story of the second half.

Livingston manager David Martindale complains to the fourth official Nick Walsh during the Premier Sports Cup defeat by Dundee United. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS

"In the second half they responded and were much better. We were unlucky to get knocked out of the tie."

Martindale will be demanding a much-improved performance on when they host Hearts in the cinch Premiership.

Goals from Steven Fletcher and Ian Harkes gave United a half-time lead. Debutant Kurtis Guthrie pulled one back for Livingston after the break, but the home side could not force extra-time as United earned a first win in six domestic games this season.

United caretaker manager Liam Fox felt his players responded to criticism of their recent performances in perfect fashion with the cup win.

New signing Kurtis Guthrie scored on his debut for Livingston. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS

Sunday's 9-0 loss to Celtic proved to be Jack Ross' final game in charge, despite only taking over at Tannadice in the summer.

Fingers had been pointed at the United players for their role in that dismissal but Fox felt this victory was the ideal way to answer the critics.

He said: "I asked the players for a reaction off the back of a period of poor results, culminating in Jack losing his job. Their personal pride has been called into question and we needed a response. I think they answered that.

"I was really pleased with how we did in the first half and started the game. We got ourselves two goals up but we have to give credit to Livingston.

"They came out in the second half and pushed us all the way. And we had to dig deep. But it's only one step on the way to hopefully getting back to where the club wants to, and needs to, be.”

"This cannot just be a flash in the pan. That was the last thing I said to them in the dressing room.

"They will get credit on the back of tonight and we are through to the next round - which is great - but we've now got a difficult game on Saturday away to Motherwell and we need to build on this.”