Dundee boss Paul Hartley orders players to stop giving ball away

Julen Etxabeguren.

Dundee boss Paul Hartley has warned his players they need to stop giving the ball away if they are to beat Rangers.

Hartley highlighted the amount of times the Dark Blues conceded possession to Kilmarnock after the sides drew 1-1 last weekend.

Now, with crisis club Rangers coming to town on Sunday, the Dens boss has told his men that they can’t afford to do the same or they will be punished despite the managerless Ibrox side’s current difficulties.

He said: “I just wasn’t happy with certain things about our play against Kilmarnock.

“The basic thing was keeping the ball better when in possession than we did in that game.

“If you don’t keep the ball then you don’t give yourself an opportunity.

“That was the most disappointing thing for me.

“I had no complaints about the players’ attitude.

“It was about keeping the ball and that’s something we have worked on this week in training.

“This is a game where we have to try to turn the screw a little bit, be on the front foot and be really positive.

“That means holding on to the ball when you get it and the players need to step up to the plate now and perform.

“We are in a situation where we are not far off the top six but not far off the teams below us.

“Every point is vital for us before the split.

“I don’t see the table changing too much between now and then.

“In the past, teams have become detached but it’s not looking like that this year.

“We are all jostling trying to avoid being in the bottom half. It’s so tight.

“So we have to be on the front foot and go and test Rangers as much as we can.”

Hartley has selection concerns ahead of the clash against the Ibrox men, who will be managed by caretaker coach Graeme Murty until a permanent replacement for Mark Warburton is found.

He has doubts over defensive Julen Etxabeguren, who wasn’t in the squad for the Killie game because of an Achilles injury, and Kosta Gadzhalov, while frontman Henrik Ojamaa also has a knock.

Hartley said: “We have a few of players we are waiting on just now – Henrik, Julen and Kosta.

“We will assess them all over the next couple of days.”