I said last week that the seven days ahead offered the prospect of progress but also peril for Dundee and St Johnstone.
The Dark Blues made great progress with six points from two of their three matches while Saints squandered six points in two defeats.
James McPake’s belief in his squad was repaid in full in their win v the Perth side but Callum Davidson was badly short changed by his men.
Both managers have stuck by their players but, in the 1-0 defeat of Saints at Dens, only one boss got full value from his team.
McPake, as a fully paid up member of the managers’ union, was fulsome in his praise of his opposite number in midweek, eulogising his abilities as a manager and a man and insisting that his current bad run would come good.
It showed common decency and a sense of brotherhood in a trade where the journey from hero to zero can be a very short trip.
The Dens boss has stood by his men when the going was tough and they’ve rewarded him in the last two games with magnificent performances.
Against Motherwell and Saints, those in dark blue expended every ounce of desire, energy and commitment that they possessed.
Their football was purposeful, high tempo and direct.
The quality and drive of their wide play, the quickness of their midfield passing and the bravery of defenders in putting bodies on the line was a joy to behold.
The fans fed off the performances and the players fed off the fans – and Dens reverberated to a cacophony of positivity which I’ve not heard in a long while.
In two giant bounds they’ve pulled themselves into ninth place and put some very useful distance between them and the basement boys.
Saints, meantime, have gone from a buoyant club to a team shorn of ideas and confidence.
At Dens they were outfought across every centimetre of the pitch and they didn’t give nearly enough for their manager or supporters.
Their midfield is currently a barren wasteland lacking innovation, inspiration and perspiration, while nine goals from 15 games is brutal evidence of the lack of service to their strike force.
Dundee fans can be justly delighted with their recent displays and the promise of where similar performances may lead.
Saints fans have every reason to be concerned about their dire efforts and where they may be headed unless they’re quickly checked.
St Johnstone have money in the bank from before and after their cup successes, and while they’re traditionally cautious and well run, speculating to accumulate must now be a priority come January.
The board need to help their manager in strengthening the side if recent gains aren’t to be thrown away and if fans aren’t to become restless.
Callum Davidson was booed for making a substitution in midweek – that’s how fickle fans are and how quickly the good times are forgotten.
The Saints boss has a very thick contacts book; he’ll know who’s available to give his side’s lacklustre performances a desperately needed boost.
The damage to United, meantime – despite five points lost in a week – has proven minimal, with Hearts still just two points in front of them.
If on Sunday they can recapture the verve and belief they displayed in their draw with Celtic at Parkhead in September and take at least a point from the Glasgow side, it’ll be a huge psychological boost in maintaining the solid progress they’ve made so far.
They’ve missed the creative forces of Fuchs and Levitt in the last two outings but it’s a squad game and others need to step up and show they have what it takes to fill the gap.
That particularly applies to the younger players.
Age should be no barrier for those with the desire, hunger and attitude to prove that they belong in the first team environment.
The Tannadice philosophy of showcasing youth is a business decision and if it works, with bigger clubs paying big fees for their emerging young talent, it’ll become a virtuous circle.
I like the idea, but am keenly aware that’s it’s a strategy with a high degree of risk if those being offered the opportunity don’t grasp it with both hands.
The opportunity to perform at this level requires young players to be gallus, not glaikit.
If they’re handed a first team shirt and don’t do themselves justice there’s no one to blame but themselves.