There were contrasting emotions for Peter Houston and Craig Brown as Dundee United climbed into the top six of the SPL with a 3-1 victory over Aberdeen at Tannadice.
Brown praises better side
Barry Douglas, Craig Conway and Danny Swanson were on target as Houston's side, who finished third last season, took advantage of their first of five matches - four of them in the SPL, plus Sunday's Scottish Cup clash with Motherwell - in 12 days to climb into fifth place in the table with a deserved win.
Houston was thrilled, but Brown described the Dons' defeat as the worst performance since he took charge last December.
Houston said: "I thought we were comfortable winners. I thought it was a very complete performance by Dundee United tonight. I'm delighted with the players.
"I've always said if I can get Conway and Swanson on the park at the same time we'll cause team problems and tonight we did cause them problems. I'm delighted with the team effort tonight.''
United took a two-goal half-time lead as Douglas headed in a Conway corner after 29 minutes and after 33 minutes Dons goalkeeper Jamie Langfield failed to hold the Scotland winger's swerving shot from 25 yards.
Aberdeen substitute Josh Magennis pulled a goal back after 51 minutes, but Swanson struck a superb third for United nine minutes later as Houston's men moved a point ahead of Inverness and above Motherwell on goal difference with three games in-hand on their rivals.
Having played fewer matches than anyone else in the SPL with the split approaching, United are playing catch up with fixtures against Hamilton on Thursday, Well in the Scottish Cup on Sunday and league games with Hearts and Inverness next week.
Houston is poised to rotate his squad, with players returning to fitness to boost his resources - including Mihael Kovacevic, who was in the squad for the first time since the Scottish Cup win at Hampden last May.
"We'll have to have a look at it and I think we'll need to use our full squad,'' Houston said. "The cup tie means a lot to us, both on and off the park - financially, but also we want to do well and get to Hampden again for a semi-final.
"We want the points and we need the points to make sure we consolidate in a top-six finish. Hopefully (Paul) Dixon will be back from a bug he got this morning, sickness and diarrhoea, which was a blow. I've not got a massive amount of players to change it that much, but certainly we'll have to use in the next couple of days the full squad.''
Aberdeen had gone from relegation contenders to top-half hopefuls after being revitalised since Brown's appointment in December, but the former Scotland boss was frustrated by his side's display.
Brown said: "I think that's the worst disappointment I can remember since we came to Aberdeen. Dundee United deserved to win the game, there's no question, it was one of our poorest performances, I've got to admit and it's hard to find the reason why.''
In a congested table the Dons remained 10th and will be reliant on other teams slipping up to claim a top-six spot after finishing second best on Tayside.
Brown added: "I never, ever said top six for Aberdeen, but what I did say was while it's mathematically possible we will be in there trying.''