James McPake has urged his Dundee players to “take the game” to Ayr United this weekend after failing to do so last time out against Inverness.
The Dark Blues fell to a dispiriting defeat to the Highlanders at Dens Park on Saturday to fall six points behind the second-placed side.
That came after the team gave themselves a boost with an impressive second-half display against runaway league leaders Dundee United after a run of three without defeat.
This weekend they have a chance to get back on track as they host the third-placed Honest Men where victory would see them move back up the table.
However, James knows his outfit will have to be far better than they showed last time out.
He said: “Looking back, we didn’t start the game anywhere near how we should have done.
“The confidence should have been there and, at home, you need to be more positive and take the game to the other team.
“Inverness are second in the league for a reason – they are a decent enough side – but we were really poor.
“I didn’t see it coming.
“It was the same 11 that had done so well at Partick and then down the road as well.
“We didn’t anticipate that happening but it has occurred before and we have managed to recover from it.
“That has to be at the forefront of our minds now, getting it right this weekend against Ayr United.”
He added: “It is frustrating.
“The difficult thing to put your finger on is that we did not make significant changes.
“You can perhaps weigh it up when you have chopped and changed and ask: ‘Were we poor because we brought in four players?’
“It was the same team against Inverness so we can’t do that.
“They were better than us – simple as that.
“They had a two-goal lead and were very comfortable.
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“In the second half we were a bit better but it’s easier to be better when you are 2-0 down and have to take the game to a team. I said as much to our players so we are not taking positives from that.
“We have been here before and come back from a poor performance before. We need to do it again.
“We can’t afford to be so up and down as a team.”
The majority of Dundee’s low points this season have come on their own patch.
The poor defeat to Inverness added to a list that includes bad days as hosts to Dundee United, Partick, Queen of the South and League Two Elgin City.
However, James doesn’t feel there is an issue for players playing at Dens Park.
“I was never big on that,” he added. “I didn’t feel that as a player.
“The basic thing that supporters want to see is people going out there and working hard.
“For 25 to 30 minutes, Inverness were much better than us and, by then, the game was effectively done as far as they were concerned as they had a lead and sat back off the match.
“They were right to do that and it happened up there as well. They are really good at it.
“You know that teams come here and look to get through the first 20 minutes or so and look to get the crowd turned against us.
“That happens at clubs that have quite a bit of support.
“But I genuinely don’t buy into the view that there is this big stigma or a big problem about playing at Dens.
“I don’t get it and it should be the opposite because when you get it right and you get the fans right behind you it is a really good place to play.
“It flips and becomes a good place to play football.
“The atmosphere can be really good but I have said it before and I will say it again – we need to give them something back.”