Craig Levein believes the chance to climb into the Premiership’s top six is a serious incentive for St Johnstone in their clash with Dundee.
The Perth side have the chance to leapfrog the Dark Blues with a victory in Sunday’s rearranged fixture.
Given the conflicting narratives of the teams’ respective seasons so far, a Saints win has the potential to significantly alter perceptions.
That is not lost on Levein.
But the McDiarmid manager knows that talk is cheap – and how his side perform is the most important thing.
“[Leapfrogging Dundee]’s an incentive,” he confirmed.
“The players that we’ve added have looked to be good. Time will tell of course, but David (Keltjens) has played really well in the matches that he’s played, Adama (Sidibeh)’s looking really good, Benji (Kimpioka)’s getting better all the time.
“Kerr (Smith)’s not had a chance to get on the field yet, but that’s more down to how well our defence has been doing than anything that he’s done wrong. He’s actually looking really good in training.
“So I’m fairly happy with where we are at the moment. It’s now about, the proof’s in the pudding – let’s see if we can try to climb the league and get into the top six if possible.”
Levein was happier with his side’s performance in their midweek defeat to Hearts than in their prior victory over Ross County in Dingwall.
Watching the match again has only reinforced his position.
But it has also left him questioning why Saints were not awarded a second-half spot-kick after a Jam Tarts player appeared to handle a ferocious Sidibeh volley.
Levein explained: “I watched the game back and I thought we were hugely unlucky not to get a penalty from Adama’s shot in the second half.
“The thing, for me, that people don’t talk about is: ‘Was the shot on target?’
“Adama’s shot was going in. It’s fairly obvious. The keeper would have had no chance.
“For me, that should be part of the thinking. If it’s hit the defender’s hand or arm en-route to goal.
“But I don’t know how that works. I really don’t.
“Dundee were penalised against Hearts for an incident that looked, to me, to be identical.
“So we come back to the people involved – it’s a human error rather than a VAR error.
“But I say that to illustrate the fact that we were in the Hearts game – Adama’s had a second chance, Nicky’s had a header that’s cleared off the line by Shankland.”
Levein has had to do without Dan Phillips, Matt Smith, Liam Gordon and David Keltjens for the last two fixtures.
The way his side have handled their absence has impressed the Perth gaffer.
But he is hopeful two of his crocked regulars could be available for Sunday’s Dundee trip.
He said: “I’ve been pleased with how they’ve coped actually.
“I’ve been coming off after matches and speaking to the media about Dan and Matty being consistently good, so it was a bit of a concern going into the last two matches without them – and Gordy as well of course, and David’s done brilliantly since he’s come in.
“Losing them was a curveball that we’ve coped with fairly well with.
“The win up at Ross County wasn’t great from a performance point of view, but we needed the three points and that was good.
“Our performance against Hearts was much better.
“We didn’t get anything from that one but at least I can take quite a bit out of that performance, keep going with what we’re working on in training and see if we can up the level just a little bit in every game we play.
“That should help us enormously.”