The Scottish football hiatus couldn’t have come at a worse time for Dundee as their faltering season finally looked like coming together.
The Dark Blues sit atop the Championship form table for the first time all campaign after six matches unbeaten and five clean sheets in a row.
However, that’s all been put on hold after the SFA and SPFL called a halt on all football activity across the country.
The coronavirus outbreak has seen the sporting calendar all over the world cancelled until further notice with no indication of when the pandemic will be brought under control.
For those of a Dundee persuasion, that only adds frustration to what has been a testing season of patience for all involved as the new-look team took its time to gel.
After a good start to the campaign where they didn’t taste defeat for the opening eight matches, James McPake’s first season in charge was thrown into a spiral of inconsistency after an embarrassing 6-2 hammering in the first derby of the season at Tannadice at the end of August.
Fans in the stands were frustrated as they saw their team slip further and further down the rankings, conceding cheap goals and often playing dull, uninspiring stuff.
They’d dropped to sixth by the middle of January.
At that point, any thoughts of a potential return to the top flight at the first time of asking were fading fast.
However, a flurry of transfer activity at the end of the winter window injected life into the season and, with it, the consistency gaffer James has been craving.
In came Christophe Berra to shore up the defence with his nous and experience of 41 international caps and years in the Scottish Premiership and English Championship. He was joined by Conor Hazard in goal on loan from Celtic after No 1 Jack Hamilton made one costly-error too many against Motherwell in the cup.
Christie Elliott also came in to add athleticism and experience to the right-hand side of the pitch.
Swiftly, Dundee’s fortunes began to change on the pitch.
All three made their debuts against Morton on February 1 and, although the Dark Blues weren’t able to earn a victory at Cappielow, already there was a greater defensive stability.
In fact, Jim McAlister’s 26th-minute equaliser that day was the last time Dundee conceded. But with no prospect of games being played any time soon, that six weeks could easily stretch into months.
A week later, three points at home to Partick turned that point at Greenock into an even better one as a Kane Hemmings double earned a first win in five games.
Since then wins over Queen of the South and Ayr have joined two stalemates in stretching the number of consecutive clean sheets into five.
The combination of a resolute defence thanks to Berra’s arrival – added to by the impressive performances of Jordon Forster at the back along with midfielders Graham Dorrans, Shaun Byrne and Paul McGowan hitting form and striker Hemmings finding the scoring touch – has seen Dundee propel themselves back into the race for second place.
The Dark Blues were heading into a crucial part of the season on their best run of league form under manager McPake. Things were coming together at a good time as ambitions for promotion back to the Premiership suddenly came back to life.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has stopped that for the time being.
Last weekend’s game was supposed to be Dunfermline at home with the chance to seriously bolster their play-off ambitions by opening a seven-point lead with a game in hand on the Pars. Scheduled for this Saturday was to be the crunch clash with second-placed Inverness – a game that could’ve defined where both clubs would end up.
The remaining seven matches would have seen the Dark Blues face Arbroath home and away, the final derby of the season against Dundee United and four matches against teams in the bottom half.
With the fate of the Scottish Championship uncertain, the Dark Blues await the call to see if they can continue their bid for a return to the top-flight.
What is sure, however, is the stoppage couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Dark Blues as they began to build up a head of steam towards the play-offs.