I come bearing good news – Dundee have won two games on the trot, kept two clean sheets in the process and got themselves right back into the mixer for finishing second in the Championship.
Two weeks ago, we secured a fine 2-0 victory over Partick Thistle at home to end a barren run of five matches without a win and on Saturday, we took care of business in Dumfries for our first win in over fours years away to Queen of the South.
Granted, both wins have come against teams struggling at the opposite end of the table but it is the manner of the victories along with the upturn in individual performances that have impressed me.
We seem to have ditched the slow build up from the back approach and embraced the good old route one tactic. Of course, it hasn’t all been one big punt up the park, the players seem to be looking for a forward pass all the time. This spells good news for our defenders who looked out of sorts when they were assigned to passing it around at the back and inviting pressure from the chasing opposition players.
McPake has gone back to his favoured 3-5-2 formation which was thrown out the window after a disastrous first half at Dunfermline in the first game of the season that saw us go 2-0 down at one point. He has flirted with various layouts since, some that have worked at times and some that have utterly failed, but James has returned to this formation and it has worked a treat – so far.
That’s not to say that most of the Dundee support felt a cold chill run down their spine when they saw the line-ups announced a few weeks ago but that feeling quickly evaporated in commanding fashion.
Now, I think I haven’t written since the January transfer window but in true Dundee fashion, it was another window that saw players leave and others arrive. For once though, it seems that we have got the personnel changes spot on. We have strengthened our faltering defence along with adding to our midfield to give us a few more options. We did lose striker Danny Johnson without being able to replace him so that remains a worry if either Hemmings or Nelson suffer an injury but so far, it all seems to be clicking.
I said our defence was strengthened and we can probably put this down to the capture of former Hearts captain Christophe Berra.
Since his inclusion to the starting XI, we have been more solid at the back and are rarely giving much away. His experience is rubbing off on our other players and he has hit the ground running. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Meekings and Forster have been looking like different players since playing beside him.
Jordon Forster has had absolute pelters from the Dens Park stand this term. He has made quite a few mistakes, cost us goals and even points before being dropped. In all honesty, I thought that would be it for his Dundee career at such an early stage. He just didn’t seem up to the task and was, well, a bomb scare.
Since Berra has came in, Forster was placed beside him and has come out all guns blazing. He has looked solid at the back and has been a threat at set-pieces. Against Partick, he thought he had opened his Dundee account with the first goal of our 2-0 victory but that was cruelly snatched away by striker Kane Hemmings but on Saturday, he made sure his name was etched on the scoresheet with an uncharacteristic left-foot strike to give us a 1-0 win.
If anyone should be given the most praise for the past two weeks, it’s the big defender.
The league may be well out of reach but the fight for second has just got going with no fewer than five teams in amongst it.
I get the feeling that unless Dunfermline pick up a few wins in the next week or so, they could be fighting for third or fourth spot but you have ourselves, Inverness, Ayr and Arbroath sitting with just one or two points separating us.
We have Arbroath up next at home on Saturday where a victory would go a long way in us atleast being in the top four. They have been the surprise package this season but they are a well-run club with some very good players in their ranks. It won’t be an easy match for us but at home, we should be taking all three-points from this.
Then a few days after, we have another home match to Alloa. Realistically and just like the Arbroath match, we should be picking up the victory but again, just like Arbroath, they will prove to be a tough opposition. They may normally be down at the bottom of the Championship but they have shown that they can pull off impressive wins against teams at the top.
With both of these matches, we should be cautious but I still expect to see us add another six points to our tally after Tuesday night.
MON THE DEE!