Dundee boss James McPake has warned his players not to give Dundee United any late Christmas presents.
The Dark Blues have not helped themselves in the previous two derbies by making mistakes that have been punished by the ruthless Tangerines.
In the opening city clash at Tannadice on August 30, the major blunder was Declan McDaid’s challenge on Paul McMullan that led to a converted penalty for the home team. They also struggled all night to deal with balls into their box.
In the second match at Dens on November 8, McDaid was at it again when he slid into United’s Liam Smith to give away another spotkick. He wasn’t the only villain, though, with Andrew Nelson losing possession to Lawrence Shankland, who duly made it 2-0 to the visitors.
McPake is desperate to cut out the errors this time.
He said: “Even in the last derby here at Dens I don’t think there was much quality in the game for both sides.
“We gifted them a penalty through a bad decision and then gave them the second goal as well.
“We gave away a penalty in the first one, too, but that was just a slip.
“In big games like this one you can’t make errors like we have made.
“You have to be clinical in dealing with the situation we find ourselves in. We failed in the last one to do that.
“You don’t have to give good teams anything because if you do they will hurt you.
“We need to be at it.
“United will be thinking the same because they know we can hurt them with the firepower we’ve got,” added McPake.
“You have two good teams in this league going head to head so something has to give.
“We need to make sure that we are up for it and that we concentrate for the 95 minutes or however long it may be.
“It’s a massive one for us.
“I am not going to sit here and say that it doesn’t matter because it means everything to our fans and players and it’s the same for United.”
McPake has watched footage of the Tangerines’ 4-0 home win over Ayr on Saturday, a match that saw them struggle to get going until the final few minutes of the first half.
Asked if he thinks Dundee might be able to catch them napping if they make another slow start, the manager said: “They still find ways to win and that’s why they are where they are.
“I have seen their game and thought Ayr were really good.
“This game will be a hard one to predict because there is a lot of pressure.
“It is mayhem for a bit so it’s about staying controlled and focused.
“If we can go down there and approach the game the way we know our players can then I will be fully confident.”