With Dundee in Scottish Cup action this weekend, boss James McPake has time away from league pressures to reflect on the season so far and should be licking his lips at the thought of what’s to come.
Of course, beating Bonnyrigg Rose at Dens on Saturday to progress to the third round will be the priority but you can bet McPake’s mind will be drifting back a few weeks when the complexion of their campaign was very different.
He can look back on their six-game unbeaten run, capitulation against Dunfermline aside, with pride.
Upon collapsing to a 3-3 draw with the Pars, things were looking bleak for the Dark Blues despite beating Arbroath and earning a draw up at Inverness but, to the credit of everyone at the club, they have turned things around.
A trio of 3-1 wins against Queen of the South, Alloa and Hearts have followed to lift the Dee to joint-second in the Championship table with Stevie Crawford’s Fifers – and they’ve been good value for it.
Dundee have the performances of inspirational figure Charlie Adam, six goals in four Osman Sow and unlikely heroes Jack Hamilton and Shaun Byrne to thank for their position just five points behind leaders and title favourites the Jambos.
McPake finally coming into his own as Dundee boss
Are the Dark Blues back in a title race? Given Robbie Neilson’s men have a game in hand and fourth-placed Raith – who the Dee travel to next Tuesday night – have two, it’s hard to say at this pivotal juncture.
However, one thing is for sure, the James McPake Dundee boss experiment seems to be quietly paying dividends in his second season.
Arguably, he’s been more maligned by the support this time out. However, at this stage last term, 11 games in, the Dee were a point and six goals worse off than they are now.
Their defensive record is worse, with five more goals conceded but, crucially, the Dee lay in fourth place and six points behind leaders Dundee United last season.
Yes, football is entirely different this term in coronavirus pandemic times and there are teams playing catch up but, if Dundee can keep their form up, there’s no reason why they can’t kick on from here.
Dee must learn from mistakes of last season
That point is crucial because it mirrors the 2019/20 campaign. Approaching a third of the way through the season, the Dark Blues were in the middle of a three-game winning run.
Their form tailed off, before picking up again, then dropping off once more before they seemed to get it together just as Covid-19 turned everyone’s world upside down. You get the point.
Particularly in this shortened 27-game season, the importance of Dundee stringing together a long sequence of good results is paramount.
McPake will know that and, upon reflection, will be cursing the Dunfermline result even more than he was at the time. You can throw Raith right back at the start of the season into that category, too.
Without doubt, sitting four points better off the Dee would be in a title race.
Though, that is, as yet, not the case and all they can do is try to build from here.
Maintaining their momentum by swatting aside non-league Bonnyrigg this weekend will do for starters, a main course of Raith and fellow-promotion challengers Ayr next week will, hopefully, be dealt with as well.
The sweet taste of success to cap it all off in the Spring? A mouth-watering prospect.