Tulisa Contostavlos has hit back at Gary Barlow after he criticised Little Mix’s performances during Saturday night’s X Factor semi-final.

The Take That frontman gave both of the band’s performances – singing You Keep Me Hanging On and Beyonce’s If I Were A Boy – suggesting that group member Perrie Edwards should be given lead vocal duties and saying their performance “was nowhere near good enough for a semi-final.”

However Tulisa, who is mentoring the girls, was none too pleased and defended them afterwards on The XTra Factor, explaining also why she had banged the judges’ desk with her fist in response to Gary’s remarks.

“I got angry, I thought that last performance was amazing,” she said. “How dare you put down my little muffins.”

She added that she thought the quartet had a harder job than the other finalists, given that a group has never won The X Factor and that they are the first girl group to progress this far on the show.

“There is nothing hard about working with them but it’s hard for them to be tarnished by the whole girlband and a group never being able to win thing,” she said, “it makes it difficult. For them to have come this far was unexpected but in saying that maybe that could be their good point.”

Afterwards Tulisa also made her feelings known on her Twitter page.

“WOW my hand hurts lol but u know wot its because I care. Guys I cnt stress how important it is to pick up the phone + vote! Save our muffins!” she tweeted, and later added, “Which ladies want a new girl band 2 represent girl power along with myself? Bring on the girl power! Stick up 4 ya sisters & #votelittlemix.”

Despite their difficult week, Little Week remain the bookies’ favourites to win the final next Saturday night, while Misha B is the favourite to be voted off this Sunday.