Dundee defender Lee Ashcroft has goals in his sights in his debut Dens campaign as he aims to lead his new team on the promotion trail.
The centre-back was quick off the mark for his new club, albeit in a friendly against Montrose at the weekend, and revealed manager James McPake has set him the task of continuing that goal threat from set-pieces when the season starts next month.
Ashcroft told Tele Sport: “The manager has already been on my case because he knows I can be a threat and wants me to score goals.
“I’ve been in this league long enough that I know set-piece goals can be deciders in games.
“Hopefully, I can add that this season and it’s good to get the confidence of scoring in a friendly so early. I want to kick on now and get more.”
Ashcroft rose highest at Links Park shortly after half-time to meet Charlie Adam’s superb delivery to put Dundee 2-1 up.
Heading into the Championship season, which starts on October 17, the 27-year-old knows the quality of balls into the box will be there from players like Adam.
“He told me at half-time (at Montrose), because there was one he put in during the first half and I was just a little late in getting up.
“He told me to get in there early and he’ll put it in.
“When you have that kind of delivery, it is easy for us to finish, if I’m not getting on the end of them, then it’s my fault.”
Having begun his career at Premiership Kilmarnock, Ashcroft later spent four seasons at Dunfermline, playing 129 league matches in that time.
And he knows more than most what makes a successful team in the Scottish second tier.
He added: “A lot of it is about consistency, being at it every week. There are so many hard games.
“It’s good to get the home form going but there are so many tough away venues like we’ve had at Montrose and Cove this week.
“Alloa and Queen of the South are similar to places like that.
“We have to be consistent. We know we can’t play well every single game but, if we pick up points when not playing well, those scrappy wins can make the difference.
“With a shorter season, we’ll need a good start and to build on that.”
Ashcroft has been impressed since joining his new squad in the past few weeks how demanding life at Dens Park is.
He’s hoping that stands the players in good stead ahead of the new campaign, which kicks off with a Betfred Cup clash against Forfar on October 6.
“From the first day I’ve been in, it’s been hard work,” he said.
“The gaffer and the staff have been demanding of all the boys and the players have taken it well.
“We know what is expected of us and if we’re not at it then we are certainly told – that’s the way it should be.
“The boys take it on the chin. It’s all about us performing and putting our hard work in training into games.”
Ashcroft himself has shown he’ll not stand for levels slipping by his reaction to a late goal conceded in the 2-2 friendly draw at Montrose.
The home side took advantage of some slack defending late on, with Graham Webster knocking in from close range, and the centre-back left his team-mates in no doubt just how unhappy he was to let their lead slip with a real blast of frustration.
“I think that’s just natural as a defender,” he said.
“It’s only a friendly but you are 2-1 up and you still want to win a game of football. To lose the goal in the manner we did was disappointing.
“The gaffer has spoken to us about it and we looked back at it. Collectively, we could all do better for that goal, it was far too easy for them.
“However, that day there were far more positives than negatives. As a defender you just get a bit frustrated because you don’t want to concede goals.”
Even if there has been frustration at times in their warm-up games, Ashcroft and his team-mates are just pleased to be back out there after a long, long time away.
Tuesday night’s match against Cove was just their third since last season was ended after a game against Ayr United on March 10.
Ashcroft added: “Now we’re back, it doesn’t feel like we’ve been away, to be honest.
“It’s been weird and a lot harder to keep yourself fit than training with a squad. The boys came back in good nick, though, and it’s been a hard three weeks but a good three weeks.
“I think we’ve all loved just being back and amongst each other because we’d all been stuck in the house for so long.”