AYR United boss Lee Bullen says that his side have got to take the criticism coming their way after a poor start to the league campaign.

But the Somerset Park boss remains confident that his team will "weather the storm".

United suffered their third league defeat in four games so far this season on Saturday as Arbroath came out 2-1 victors at Gayfield.

Ahkeem Rose had United level just before half-time to cancel out Jay Bird's opener for the Red Lichties - who took all three points when Jermaine Hylton scored with less than ten minutes remaining.

Ayr now find themselves just one place off the bottom of the Championship table, and four points adrift of the play-off places - and Bullen says he's well aware it's not the start the fans were hoping for.

“It’s one win in four games," he said, "and we’re acutely aware of how poor a start that is, but we’re also aware of how this league goes – all it takes is a couple of good results and you’re right back in the pack again.

“We’re not getting too despondent, we’re not getting too down. It’s great when the plaudits are coming your way, and you’re happy to take those pats on the back like we got for long spells last season.

“We’re at the other end now, and you’ve got to stand up, you’ve got to deal with certain criticisms from a minority."

While the United boss added that they know that problems need addressed to turn some fans around, and give those backing the side something to cheer about.

Bullen added: “We know roughly what the reasons are for the up and down performances and results at the moment, but we’ve got to weather this storm. We’ve got to stick together and push through it.

“The support up at Arbroath was brilliant. We know there wasn’t many of them, but they were absolutely fantastic taking their time to get up there. We’re buzzing with that support they showed the players in defeat.

“Long may that continue and we can push on and get a couple of results to help us."

Bullen went onto further explain some of the issues he feel Ayr have to tackle - particularly as they adjust to changes in key personnel - partly as a result of close-season arrivals and departures, but also because of injuries to important players in the first few weeks of the new campaign, with Andy Murdoch, Ben Dempsey and Jamie Murphy all on the treatment table.

He said: “We’re trying to play a style of football which is particularly different from last year, because we are working with a different of attacking players as opposed to what we had last year.

“We’re trying to play to the strengths and support the boys that are in our wide areas and forward areas.

“Last year Dipo [Akinyemi] was a hell of a target man. We’ve got Fraser [Bryden], Mark [McKenzie], Akheem [Rose] and Franny [Amartey] this year, who are completely different styles of player, so we’re adjusting to that side of things.

"Of course it’s not ideal that you lose your two go-to midfielders for the last season and a half. Jamie Murphy who was probably our best player during pre-season. But I’m very careful not to use it as an excuse.

“They’re big losses for any team at this level but people go through spells where they have a few injuries and they have to adapt.

“Partick did it last year and then finished the season very strong – we just have to weather this storm and get through it."

Bullen is now putting his focus on keeping his players motivated through this poor run of results - which he hopes won't get on top of the squad.

He explained: “The biggest thing for me is keeping the players confident - not letting them get themselves down too far. We’ve got to be disappointed, obviously, but it’s my job, and the staff’s job, to keep the players buoyant and keep the belief high.

“We do that and we will turn a corner. We’ve proved during the cup games that we can play,. We took the injuries, we’re adjusting now, and it will come – I fully believe that.”

With eight goals conceded in the league so far, he believes a large part of turning their fortunes around will be tightening up at the back.

Bullen said: “We’ve got to do better defensively, as a unit. Your defence starts with your strikers as your attacks start with your goalkeeper.

“It’s just the manner of the goals. Four of those goals come from set plays - they’re avoidable, and one mistake from a goalkeeper, something he’s never made, and he’s been outstanding for us for over a year and a half.

“We need to take these things on the chin and actually deal with it and be a little bit more determined, especially at set plays.

“We know what we’ve got to improve on and set plays is a major part of that, and we’ll look to try and improve on that at Falkirk and against Partick.”

And though scoring at the other end has proved a challenge too, with only three goals scored thus far, the United boss is confident the goals will come.

The Honest Men squandered a number of first half chances in Arbroath - but Bullen says that as long as he's seeing his players create chances he's not too concerned at what's happening up front.

"My bigger worry would be if we weren’t creating those opportunities," he said.

"There have been a couple of games where we’ve not created enough, but that game on Saturday we certainly created enough opportunities to win the game and be out of sight.

“That’ll come, we’ll stick with them and keep the confidence, we’re creating the opportunities and at least that’s starting to turn a little bit.”

Ayr are back in action this Tuesday, September 5 when they host Falkirk in the third round of the Scottish Challenge Cup - then it's a break for the first international matches of the season before Partick Thistle come to Somerset on Friday, September 15.