“When the chips have really been down and we are under pressure, the players have performed.”
Dundee boss James McPake has no worries about his side’s big-game mentality as he prepares them for a season-defining couple of weeks.
The Dark Blues get their first taste of play-off football on Wednesday night when they travel to Raith Rovers for the first leg of their semi-final.
That’s after the Kirkcaldy side emerged from the quarter-final stage on Saturday.
Throughout the regular Championship campaign, Dundee were unable to string a consistent run of form together.
That is until the final eight games of the regular season, where they picked up 18 points from an available 24.
And the Dens boss points to matches like their rousing 3-1 home win over Hearts at the turn of the year and the must-win game against Raith themselves a few weeks ago as proof of his players’ mentality in pressure games.
That character, he believes, will stand them in good stead over the next two – and possibly four – play-off encounters.
He said: “Certain games carry different weight and when it got to games we had to win we did – Hearts in January, we had to put a marker down after what happened at the start of the season, going down to Ayr United after what they did to us at Dens and against Raith the other week.
“We knew if we didn’t win that, we couldn’t finish second.
The players produce when the pressure is on. I believe in these games our players will be able to stand up to that pressure.
“Throughout the squad, almost the full squad has experience of big games so I’m not worried about that at all.
“There is a feeling here that the players are looking forward to the bigger games.
“We just need to make sure we produce over the next four games, hopefully, or our recent run has been pointless really.”
Big decisions to make
McPake also revealed he will have major decisions to discuss with his coaching staff in the next few days over team selection.
Only Fin Robertson, ruled out until next season, is currently absent through injury.
In recent games, the likes of Osman Sow, Jason Cummings and even captain Charlie Adam have had to settle for a place on the bench.
With a place in the Premiership possibly at stake, McPake knows how important the next couple of weeks could be.
“I will have some tough decisions to make along with the full coaching staff to decide which team takes to the pitch,” he added.
“We have a full squad, minus only Fin Robertson. Jack Hamilton and Josh Mulligan are back training and it’s a strong squad to choose from.
“We will have to make some big decisions over the next few weeks that will determine our fate.
“Hopefully, that is getting Dundee back to the Premiership.”
Contracts and transfer talk will wait
With at most just four matches of the season remaining, the Dark Blues have a number of first-team players coming to the end of their contracts.
Among them are Cammy Kerr, Sow and Liam Fontaine.
McPake, though, says decisions and discussions over those and any summer transfer plans will have to wait until the play-offs are finished with.
When Dundee know which league they will be competing in next season.
“We have a plan regardless of what happens,” he added.
“Every transfer window we do a lot of work behind the scenes.
“Our plan from day one was to build a squad here that could compete in the Premiership. That’s still the plan regardless.
“We’ll take care of the games first but there is work going on in the background.”