Dundee have a “bit of resilience” about them now says free-scoring defender Lee Ashcroft after he helped the Dark Blues to a sensational comeback victory over Dunfermline.
The meeting on Saturday night was billed as a key clash in the race for the play-off spots and the advantage of finishing in second spot.
The sides went into the contest locked on points and, for a chunk of the game, it looked like the Pars would be the ones earning a huge three points.
However, the Dark Blues roared back with goals from Jason Cummings and Danny Mullen before Ashcroft nodded in his third goal in two games.
“If that was earlier in the season we would have crumbled, to be honest, so we needed that kind of fightback,” the former Dunfermline defender said.
“It showed we have character. Obviously nobody wants to go 2-0 down that early in a game because we’ve been there before and it went the other way.
“But we kept at it, we fought back and we got the result in the end – so it was a great night for us.
“Once we got the first goal we sensed that we could get back in it and the lads’ spirit was tremendous.
“We have played well this season and lost games, but now we have a bit of resilience about us.
“We have six massive games left to play this season so we’ll see what happens.”
How the action unfolded
Kevin O’Hara opened the scoring after just three minutes after Christie Elliott’s tackle on Craig Wighton fell to the feet of the striker inside the area.
That lead was doubled another three minutes later and, once more, Dundee had themselves to blame for gifting the Pars the opportunity.
Liam Fontaine, freshly back after injury, failed to clear the ball before Ashcroft’s attempt to do just that cannoned back off Craig Wighton.
That allowed the boyhood Dundee fan a sight of goal and he made it count with a delightful lob over Adam Legzdins.
Ashcroft would head a decent chance wide for the home side before Jason Cummings demonstrated his poacher’s instinct by following up a superb double save by Owain Fon Williams.
The Pars keeper can count himself extremely unfortunate to have been beaten after twice keeping out Osman Sow with two tremendous stops before the ball dropped to Cummings.
Again in the second half, Fon Williams was in fine form, first tipping a Mullen drive onto the bar before beating out an Ashcroft header.
Once more the goalie could bemoan his luck as the ball dropped for Mullen to smack home.
And just 11 minutes after the break, it was Ashcroft’s turn as he headed a Paul McGowan corner into the net.
The Dark Blues would have more chances to stretch their lead before Dunfermline started piling on the pressure late on.
Ashcroft and his fellow Dees, though, stood strong to play out a big three points.
‘Far too easy’ for Hearts
That meant they kept pace with Raith Rovers in second place after they beat Morton on Saturday, though they still trail runaway leaders Hearts by 13 points.
And Ashcroft admits the Dark Blues should have been putting more pressure on the Jambos during their sticky spell.
“We have all been too inconsistent this season, the rest of the clubs have made it far too easy for them,” he said.
“It’s very frustrating, I think all the teams will be annoyed with themselves.
“Hearts are getting stick now, which is baffling if you ask me because they are top of the league by a big margin.
“The gap they have is too big, it’s about focusing on the play-offs for us now.
“We have to keep winning games and see what happens, but the focus is going into the play-offs now.
“We want to get second and have a bit of momentum behind us, the result on Saturday night helps us with that but it’s going to be a tough end to the season.”
Pre-season with St Johnstone
First up, though, is a tasty looking all-Tayside Scottish Cup clash with St Johnstone at Dens Park on Saturday.
Callum Davidson’s men have enjoyed a tremendous 2021 so far – winning the League Cup and grabbing a top six place in the Premiership.
And Ashcroft revealed he almost signed for Saints after leaving Dunfermline last year before Dundee made their move.
“I was in there for pre-season but we didn’t get anything sorted and I move to Dundee instead,” Ashcroft said.
“It was one of those ones which could have gone either way.
“I’d had a few teams on the phone, went in to train with St Johnstone and then Dundee were quicker to offer me a deal.
“I signed here, I’m a Dundee player now and I’m looking forward to the game.
“I worked with Callum at Dunfermline, I think very highly of him.
“He’s a very good coach, someone you thought would become a manager in his own right and he has good experience from down in England as well.
“He’s had a fantastic first season but hopefully he won’t get them further than this round in the Scottish Cup.”
‘Anything can happen’
Ashcroft added: “It’s great to have a big cup tie to look forward to this weekend.
“It’s a free hit at St Johnstone for us, really.
“Both teams will be going into it on a bit of a high, us on the back of beating Dunfermline and them reaching the top six.
“They’ve won the first trophy of the season as well, so they will be desperate to do well in the Scottish Cup.
“It will be a different game from what we’ve been used to in the Championship this season.
“They have a lot of big players so it will be tough physically and they just know how to win games.
“Every season they are there or thereabouts for the top six and they have a great record in the cups as well.
“So we know just how difficult it’s going to be – although seeing them win cups shows everyone else what’s possible.
“Look at Brora beating Hearts and us having a struggle against Bonnyrigg earlier in the season.
“Anything can happen in the cups so we’ll get a good week’s training behind us and see what happens.”