SOME captains inspire through actions rather than words and so it was with Benjamin Siegrist on Saturday.

With neither Dundee United’s regular skipper, Mark Reynolds, nor his deputy Calum Butcher in the starting line-up for the Premier Sports Cup tie at Ayr United, it was the Swiss who took the armband.

If there are limitations with goalkeepers acting as captain – “I can’t run out of the goal and have a go at the ref” – then Siegrist more than atoned with a performance that helped United squeeze through to the quarter-finals.

Ayr had gone in front through Tomi Adeloye’s goal early in the second half and seemed intent on pummelling their Premiership visitors into submission.

Siegrist, though, had other ideas, brilliantly tipping away Patrick Reading’s 30-yard thunderbolt and somehow also denying Mark McKenzie from close range.

When the tie eventually wound its way through to the shoot-out after Nicky Clark had saved United with a late penalty after 80 minutes, it was the Swiss’ stops that proved key to breaking Ayr's hearts.

“I was proud to be skipper today,” said Siegrist. “It gave me a little boost before the game because I didn’t know until the kitman put the armband down - I said: ‘Mate, you’ve put that in the wrong place!’

“It was a very proud moment. I made my debut here but before today I hadn’t actually won here, so to come away with the win is great. It was a proper cup tie and someone had to win it after 120 minutes and the shootout, so I was happy I could help.”

Goalkeepers are meant to be better informed than ever at shoot-outs thanks to video analysis but none of that footage helped Siegrist who plumped instead for the old school tactics of mind games and guesswork.

“You’re just trying to put the taker off,” he admitted, while confessing he had lost all three coin tosses he had to contest during the game. “Their fans did everything to put our players off, so I’ve got to keep the balance. I have a bad reputation as our fans say I’ve never saved a pen but it’s not that simple!

“I didn’t do any homework beforehand. If someone hands you a sheet and says a guy has hit three to the left, three down the middle and two to the right, you might as well not tell me.

“You can pick up on cues like if he slows his run up or whatever, but today was more like a feeling. I got it wrong twice as well. The margin of error is so tight.”

Siegrist’s evident joy stood in stark contrast to the demeanour in the Ayr camp. The Championship side had been in the ascendancy until that soft penalty award 10 minutes from the end of regulation time and the decision to also send off defender Jack Baird.

“We were robbed,” said Adeloye. "It was never a penalty. It was a bad decision by the referee and it has cost us. We just have to pick ourselves up and go again.

“I don’t think they were going to score in open play. They were moving the ball well in passages but they weren’t breaking us down and we were comfortable.

“We got them on the counter and we looked dangerous going forward. But that refereeing decision has cost us the game.”

The one consolation for Ayr was that they should find themselves contending at the top end of the Championship if they can unearth regular performances like this one. James Maxwell, the midfielder on loan at Rangers, was particularly impressive.

“I’m very confident for the season,” added Adeloye. “We had a bit of a shaky start in the first half against Arbroath but the second half was more like it. I’m pretty sure that, if we play like we did today, then we’ll be right up there.”