Dundee are gearing up for the biggest week of their season, hoping to make the next one even bigger.
Promotion is the aim but they will have to find a way through a pair of nerve-shredding two-legged ties over the coming fortnight.
First up is the winner of today’s clash between Raith Rovers and Dunfermline on Wednesday and then a second leg next Saturday.
The winner of that clash then faces Kilmarnock, Ross County or Hamilton in a bid to take their top flight place from them.
It’s a big task but one the Dark Blues feel they are ready for.
That’s because they have a squad chock full of experience, in particular experience of play-off football both north and south of the border.
The likes of Charlie Adam and Liam Fontaine have both played in Championship play-off finals at Wembley.
While Jason Cummings came down through these play-offs with Hibs, Lee Ashcroft played in them for Dunfermline and Paul McMullan went close with Dundee United.
Contrasting play-off experience
Two players with completely contrasting experiences of play-off football are goalkeeper Adam Legzdins and midfielder Shaun Byrne.
Only two sides have managed to get out of the Scottish Championship through the play-offs.
And Byrne was a key man in the Livingston side that defeated McMullan’s United before sending Partick Thistle down in the final.
He knows what it takes to do the job in front of Dundee right now.
It’s all about momentum, something the Dark Blues have plenty of right now after winning their last two matches and being unbeaten in the last eight league games.
“Momentum is massive,” he said.
“I saw that when I was with Livingston. To take that into the play-offs is huge because the teams in there are usually in decent form and the Premiership team is struggling.”
‘Crucial’ extra week
Livingston were newboys in the Championship, having won promotion from League One just the season before under David Hopkin.
But they made short work of the second tier and swept to promotion at Firhill. Much of that was thanks to finishing in second place and avoiding the extra two games of the quarter final.
Something Dundee managed to do on the final day of the regular Championship campaign.
On that Livi win, Byrne said: “We were pretty consistent, up and around the top all season.
“We finished second and that gives you an extra week which can be crucial.
“I felt when we played Dundee United that year, they tired because they had played two games against Dunfermline and we went in fresh.”
He added: “The play-off win with Livingston gave me the best moments in my career by far.
“The twists and turns were incredible. One minute you look down and out and the next you are on top of the world.
“It is the best feeling ever when you get promoted so I would love to do it again.”
Legzdins: Wembley defeat ‘was absolutely horrible’
On the flipside, goalkeeper Legzdins is determined to banish the agony of play-off defeat by helping the Dark Blues achieve their dream of a return to the top flight.
On top of missing out on promotion to the English Premier League, Legzdins wasn’t able to help his team-mates out on the Wembley turf as they lost to QPR.
After being Derby’s No 1 the previous season under Nigel Clough, he had to settle for a place on the bench behind Lee Grant when Steve McClaren took over.
But Legzdins says the double disappointment of not playing and then seeing his side lose such a big game makes him want success with Dundee even more.
He said: “At Derby County we lost in the play-off final in the Championship, which was obviously a big thing.
“I was on the bench for that but it was a big occasion at Wembley.
“We lost when Bobby Zamora scored that goal for QPR.
“But that’s about it in terms of play-offs for me. We just missed out a couple of times with Birmingham.
“So I am looking forward to a second taste of it with Dundee.
“I have appreciated every single minute of games and training I have been involved in since I started playing football.
“It is a hard thing to earn and it is an easy thing to take away from you.
“So this is what I wanted when I came to play for Dundee.
“Those situations where it has been hard in your career, they are not easy but when you come out the other side and you have something potentially to look forward to like this, the experience of the previous times has to help you.
“When we lost at Derby in the final, it was absolutely horrible. Even being on the bench, it was gutting but I will definitely use that going forward.”
‘Looking forward to play-offs more than normal’
Having begun his career in 2005, Legzdins has seen and experienced plenty in his career.
However, he’s determined no one at Dens Park gets carried away ahead of the crucial contests to come this week.
He added: “Games of football are the same.
“If you start treating them differently because they are a Championship play-off or a cup final, whatever, then it is more likely that you are not going to perform the same as you have done to get to those situations.
“As a player and a person I have always tried to level out those highs and lows, to try to find consistency.
“So I won’t be treating these games any differently, that’s for sure.
“However, I will probably be looking forward to them a little bit more than normal.”