To some, the weekend’s defeat to Falkirk was inevitable. It’s been widely accepted that Dundee have rode their luck over the last few weeks, sustaining lots of early pressure and turning in some unimaginative performances and yet still securing 3 points here and there. Although a draw might have been a fairer result, and Falkirk created little other than their well taken set piece, few had many complaints or felt cheated by their 1-0 victory that leaves them 6 points behind Dundee and Hamilton and, more importantly, Dundee trailing Hamilton by the narrowest of margins; with 59 points apiece and an identical goal difference, it’s Hamilton’s superior strike force that have put the Lanarkshire outfit top on goals scored.
It would be ludicrous to claim that the results at the weekend did anything other than emphasise the importance of this weekend’s top of the table clash between Hamilton and ourselves. The situation is the same as it was before; whoever wins will have the upper hand going into the last 4 games of the season, and even then may yet slip up against those teams seeking the final playoff spot or looking to avoid sliding into 9th position. Given our record against Hamilton this season- two victories and a draw- there’s every reason to be positive about the crunch game ahead, particularly as Hamilton rely so heavily on their attack to cover up their defensive deficiencies. Dundee have already sold 1,100 tickets for the game against Hamilton, with the other 1,100 initially allocated expected to be sold in due course, raising the prospect of the Dark Blue support outnumbering the home support; with just shy of 5,000 at the Falkirk game, I’m sure that Premiership chairmen are keeping their fingers crossed that Dundee make it up and boost their coffers next season!
However, even if we lose on Saturday at New Douglas Park and go on to finish second (or even third, if Falkirk can put together a run), the introduction of the playoffs ensure that not all is lost. In fact, we should all be grateful for the re-introduction of a playoffs system between our top two tiers. Although no one team has run away with the Championship this term, the tantalising prospect of promotion- however much the system is skewed against the Championship side- has given most of the teams in the second tier something to keep battling for long after the top spot has been put out of their reach. Its added talking points to a season, where the champions and the issue of relegation were all but a foregone conclusion in August. From the fans’ point of view, the playoffs provides something of a safety net for Hamilton, Dundee and Falkirk fans, and will generate some much-needed revenue for the teams that do finish 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Given Hearts’ well-documented issues in the Premiership, it’s also kept the relegation race alive in the top tier, and any one of the other five teams in the bottom six could end up scrapping for survival against Hamilton, Dundee, Falkirk, Queen of the South, Livingston, Dumbarton or (at a push) Raith Rovers, keeping up interest for the fans of several teams that may otherwise have started looking ahead to next season.
Although I’m no tactical expert, I’m hoping that Hartley continues to make the positive choices he has since he’s taken over and goes for a 4-4-2 with Boyle and Riley bombing down the wings to whip balls in for MacDonald and Nade to take on; the return of Kevin McBride, whose influence I must admit I’d underestimated, would also be a boost for a midfield that’s been a bit claggy in recent games. A victory on Saturday to regain some momentum ahead of our games against the bottom three teams in the league would be just what the doctor ordered for Dundee fans of a nervous disposition.