Dundee’s clash with Partick Thistle at Dens Park today has become a game that will define the Dark Blues’ season.
So says Tele columnist and former Dee defender Lee Wilkie, who faced a similar meeting with the Jags almost 14 years ago.
Defeat at Hearts on Tuesday night combined with Thistle’s success against Motherwell 24 hours later, means a home loss would see Neil McCann’s team drop back to the bottom of the Premiership.
Having seen an improvement in performances recently to haul themselves out of the automatic relegation place, Wilkie believes a return would represent a crushing blow.
“Psychologically, this is a massive game for Dundee, it really is,” he said.
“I think if they were to lose it could be a huge set back mentally, ironically because they have been doing well recently.
“They’d started picking up points and were playing good football. I thought they’d turned the corner and, hopefully, they have.
“I know they’ve lost the last two games but they were against Aberdeen and at Hearts, so you could hardly say those were shocks.
“They got a win against Rangers when nobody thought they would and won at Ross County. That was a bigger win because you have to beat the teams around you.
“Partick are in the same category and beating them would be a big lift.
“It’s not going to be easy because, despite being bottom most of the season, Thistle are decent and they got a boost by winning on Wednesday.
“They’ll be thinking if they can win at Dens and get off the bottom, they’ll have turned the corner and can really kick on.
“For Dundee it would be the opposite. They’d have come off a decent run and still be bottom — that could destroy them mentally.”
For Wilkie, the upside is a win tomorrow would have the Dee back on track and opening a gap to last place. Then they’d be the team looking to kick on.
That’s exactly what the side he was part of did when the teams met in a similar situation back in January 2004.
That day a goal from an unlikely source secured the three points and Dundee didn’t look back.
“It was just after Dundee had gone into administration and we’d lost a lot of the squad.
“We were in the bottom two with Thistle and people were saying we’d go down.
“We went to Firhill knowing if we lost we’d be in big trouble. But a late goal from Barry Smith got us a 2-1 win and, by the end of the season, we were 20 points ahead of them.
“I actually remember Barry’s goal well. He and I were the only two back because we had a free-kick or a corner and I said to him to push up.
“He did, the ball dropped to him and he scored a great goal from the edge of the box — I think it was his first shot since he’d hit the post in the cup final the season before!
“If someone can do the same tomorrow they can be climbing the league for the rest of the season and not worrying about relegation.”
One concern Wilkie has for the present team stems from the identity of the other scorer that day — Nacho Novo.
“Like I’ve said, people were saying we were going down because we’d lost so many players but we still had a decent squad with some talent.
“Nacho got 19 or 20 goals that season and, when you have a player like that up top, you know you’ve a great chance of winning games. Right now goals are a problem for Dundee. They could do with a striker like Nacho.”