Dundee’s two trips to Somerset Park this season summed up the extremes of their Championship season and highlighted the inconsistency that has dogged them.
No one knows that better than midfielder Paul McGowan.
However, he’s backing the Dark Blues to get over their up-and-down form and turn it on when it really matters.
With five matches to go and a play-off place to secure, Dundee are beginning to enjoy their season after winning three league matches on the bounce.
Their first trip to face the Honest Men was anything but enjoyable, however, and McGowan made his feelings more than clear after that contest.
A five-minute diatribe on the team’s failings that branded Dundee ‘horrible’, ‘pathetic’ and carrying ‘passengers’ amid a host of expletives followed the dismal 2-0 loss to Ayr in November.
‘Last time I hammered us’
Fast forward a few months and Dundee’s next trip to Somerset Park provided stark contrast to that dark night.
And a very different Paul McGowan assessment.
He said: “All credit to the players because the last time I stood here I hammered us, there was no fight in us and basically we rolled over.
“This time you saw a team battling for each other, everyone fighting for one other.
“We scored some great goals and even those that came off the bench made an impact.
“We’re only looking up and there’s a good buzz around the place.
“It was definitely better than the last time we were at Ayr. We knew it was going to be difficult with the wind, the pitch and it’s hard to play the way we want to play.
“But you saw another side of us. I can’t really remember Adam (Legzdins) having a save to make, we were the ones in the ascendancy in the second half and there was only one team going to win the game.”
He added: “Coming down on the bus we remembered the last game here because it was a sore one. We never showed up that day.
“Anyone can beat anyone in this league and consistency has not been our strong point but we’re starting to do it at the right end of the season.
“We’re looking up and playing well and you can see the confidence in the team.
“We’re playing really well and all credit to the players because through the season we have taken some knocks but we’ve dusted ourselves down and gone again.
“What a result going to Ayr and winning 3-0.”
McGowan instrumental before ‘Goal of the Season’
Taking the place of Charlie Adam as leader on the pitch, McGowan was instrumental in the 3-0 success on Tuesday night.
The first half at Somerset Park was a battle with few clear-cut chances but the second half went all Dundee’s way.
And McGowan was pivotal in each of the team’s three goals.
Firstly playing a ball into the channel for striker Jason Cummings to drive at the defence, with his deflected shot ending up at the feet of Max Anderson before the ball found the top corner.
McGowan then rescued what looked a forlorn hope inside the Ayr penalty box to set up a Paul McMullan shot that fell for Jonathan Afolabi to smash home.
Then late on came the pick of the bunch – Goal of the Season according to manager James McPake – as McMullan returned the favour, rolling the ball into the path of McGowan.
The 33-year-old sent the ball sailing over helpless Ayr goalie Viljami Sinisalo and into the top corner with the outside of his foot.
“I’ve no power in my shots, so I’ve just gone to place it with the outside of my foot and it’s gone in,” McGowan explained.
“It was a great goal, a great team goal and that shows the confidence in the players. I’m not talking about the finish, the play before that with a few passes and Paul laid it off.
— Dundee Football Club (@DundeeFC) April 7, 2021
“The conditions were very difficult, there was a cross wind and I switched ends in the first half because of the sun.
“We’ve played well the last few weeks and long may it continue. You’ve seen another side of us, fighting for each other.
“That’s been a question mark over us quite a few times this season.”
‘We have a fight on our hands’
There will be yet more questions to answer before May rolls around and the tension that surrounds the Premiership play-offs.
With still five matches to go before that, Dundee are keen to wrap up their place in the top four as soon as possible after opening up a five-point gap on fifth place.
However, McGowan has sights set on the key second spot that avoids an extra two-legged tie as they prepare to face Greenock Morton on Saturday.
“The aim is to finish second, finish as high as we can,” he added.
“Credit to John McGlynn, Raith are playing some fantastic football, they were promoted and are fighting for second, incredible.
“We know we’ve got a fight on our hands, Neil McCann has got Inverness playing well which I knew he would.
“So we just need to keep looking up and taking each game as it comes.
“Hopefully, we can get second, that’s our aim.”