It wasn’t long ago set-pieces were Dundee’s Achilles heel as they struggled for a consistent run of form in the Championship.
Now they are unbeaten in the league for almost six weeks and have turned their weakness at set-plays into a weapon.
Since losing two goals from corners in a poor 3-1 defeat at Raith Rovers in January, the Dark Blues had played all the way until Saturday against the same opponents without conceding from a set-piece.
In that time, though, they have found their own attacking set-pieces a goal mine to be plundered time and again.
In their recent run of seven Championship matches unbeaten, more than half of Dundee’s 13 goals have come directly from corners or the penalty spot.
It becomes eight out of 13 if you include Jonathan Afolabi’s strike at Ayr that came from a cleared corner eventually returned to the penalty area.
That’s 54% – or 62% if you’re being greedy by adding Afolabi to the mix.
What’s been the difference?
Manager James McPake has said this season how important set-pieces are and the time they spend working on them in training.
However, he revealed this week the Raith match in January was a turning point in their approach to defending them.
That day they were caught out twice by the same short corner routine.
McPake said on Monday: “We were losing a lot of goals from set-plays earlier in the season but we sat down and identified what we thought the problem was and tried to fix it.
“I think that one on Saturday (at home to Raith Rovers) was the first we conceded from a set-piece since the last Raith game so we have got really good at defending them.
“I’ve said before that set-plays are so important and that’s been the case recently.”
That day at Raith saw both first-choice central defenders Lee Ashcroft and Liam Fontaine missing.
Since then Ashcroft has been ever-present while Fontaine has missed just three of the subsequent 14 matches.
And it’s no coincidence having a consistent centre-back pairing has led to more settled defensive displays.
Fontaine has won the Championship twice as well as the Scottish Cup while Ashcroft has been a strong defender in the second tier for a number of years now.
The experience of goalkeeper Adam Legzdins behind them has also helped.
He returned to the side for the last 10 matches and has four clean sheets to his name in that time, too.
There’s no doubt who is the main man responsible for the sudden splurge of goals from corners in particular.
Ashcroft has netted five times in his last seven league outings, four of them from corner kicks.
In the second half of the season the former Dunfermline and Kilmarnock man has shown what a towering aerial presence he is.
However, it’s not only the man getting the final touch who deserves the credit – delivery is an absolutely vital component.
Everyone knows the deadly accuracy Charlie Adam possesses with his left foot but it’s been Paul McGowan racking up the assists for Ashcroft.
Of the seven set-piece goals in the last seven games, Adam has one assist (for Ashcroft at Inverness) while McGowan has laid on four. That includes Fontaine’s header at the weekend.
McGowan cross to Ashcroft head has been a very profitable route to goals for the Dark Blues.
Not just for goals from the defender but also for the likes of Danny Mullen following up against Dunfermline at the end of March.
The striker was sharpest to react after Owain Fon Williams had saved from Ashcroft just minutes after the big defender had equalised for the Dark Blues at Dens.
Not to be outdone on the scoring stakes, however, Fontaine notched his fourth of the campaign last time out against Raith.
Into the 17th year of his career, Fontaine’s previous best goal tally was two. Each time achieved after playing around 40 matches in a season for Bristol City or Hibs.
This term it’s four in 21.
And brings the goal record for Dundee’s central defenders into double figures for the season in all competitions – Ashcroft six and Fontaine four.
In the Championship, only Queen of the South defender Ayo Obileye has bettered the Dundee duo with nine, three of them penalties.
Dundee have managed 19 league goals this season from corners, free-kicks, penalties or long throws.
The scorers of those have been Ashcroft (4), Fontaine (4), Osman Sow (3), Adam (2), Cummings (2), Mullen (2), Cammy Kerr (1) and Afolabi (1).
However, their recent good run has certainly shown a positive jump in those figures.
It was 12 goals for in the opening 19 matches of the league season but seven in seven recently.
The opening 18 matches also saw 16 goals conceded from set-plays but just three in 14 matches since.
The aerial dominance of Ashcroft in recent weeks has no doubt played a huge part in both boxes along with a general sharpening up overall at the back.
The numbers were poor early in the season but the Dark Blues set about sorting them out.
Now they’ll be looking to make the most of their attacking weapon in the crunch play-off clashes to come.