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  1. After finally putting an end to their run of seven straight defeats with a 3-2 win at Motherwell last week, the Dark Blues face another testing away trip this weekend. Many would see a point as a good return for Dundee against Lee McCulloch’s men but Hateley insists his side have the talent to go there and get a vital three points. He said: “I’ve said all season, we’ve got the players and the squad to go anywhere and win games — we’re not looking to go away to get a point and shut up shop. “The players who have that bit of magic like Craig Wighton, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Henrik Ojamaa, Marcus Haber with his goals — we’ve got matchwinners in our team and we’re going anywhere to win a game of football. “We’re going to Killie for the victory, 100%. So if we can get two away wins in a row and put ourselves in a good spot going into the last few games then that’d be perfect.” Since interim manager Neil McCann took the reins at Dens Park, the mood around the place has been all about positivity. More important for Hateley, though, was putting an end to that miserable run of defeats at Motherwell. “It’s been the reaction the manager would have wanted,” Hateley added.
  2. That is the opinion of midfielder Tom Hateley as the Dark Blues prepare for tonight’s Premiership clash against Aberdeen at Pittodrie. The gloom and doom hung over Dens Park for a while after last Saturday’s surprise Scottish Cup 2-0 home defeat to the Buddies, who are detached at the foot of the Championship. It was a result that sent the Dundee fans away in a bad mood as well as bursting a few fixed-odds coupons. Hateley conceded that it was as grim as it gets and stressed that the players have accepted full responsibility for letting everybody down. Nevertheless, he thinks that a line should be drawn under the cup exit with the Dons lying in wait. He said: “It was just so disappointing for everyone involved. “Every player would have loved a good cup run and it would have been great for the club and the fans. “It just wasn’t meant to be. “It was a poor performance from us and there is no trying to get away from that fact. “We had been playing well at home but it just wasn’t really our day. “Although we didn’t play well I still thought we created a couple of chances. “What we have to do is hold our hands up as players and take the criticism on the chin. “It’s all part and parcel of the game but hopefully we can do much better at Pittodrie and go on from there. “It’s about putting it to the back of your mind and looking forward to the Aberdeen game. “We are in a very tight league and if you have couple of off-weeks then you can be straight back down to the bottom again. “You don’t want to dwell on it (the cup loss) too much because this can be an unforgiving league. “So we need to get the focus back on the Premiership now.” Hateley was asked if the players feel that they owe the fans one for letting them down against the Buddies. He replied: “Yes, of course we do. “We had a great couple of weeks’ training leading into the game and nobody saw that result coming. “So I can understand the fans’ frustration because it was a result they not only didn’t want but probably didn’t expect. “Of course we would now love to go up there and turn Aberdeen over and get the supporters back onside. “It would be nice to do that. “It will be a tough game. “They have been doing well but you could have said the same about us before last weekend. “Football can be a funny game sometimes. “We have put in some good away performances without maybe getting the results, such as against Celtic at Parkhead. “So we will be going up the road and trying to win the game. “You are maybe just as well giving it a good go. “This will be my first trip there as a Dundee player so I’m looking forward to it. “It is good to go and play at tough venues against quality teams. “It will be good to get back out there after the St Mirren game.” The Dons have just snapped up Ryan Christie on loan from Celtic, yet another bit of quality to be added to an already strong squad. Hateley said: “He will have to tightly marked if he plays but there are a few of them. “They have good players all over the park. “But that’s something we will be set up to deal with and will be aware of. “Most of our lads have played against Aberdeen a few times and know what to expect from them. “We have good attacking players, have pace and height, and also strength when we need it. “We know their threats but we have our own as well.”
  3. After showing good form going into the shutdown, particularly at home, the Dark Blues are strong favourites to progress against the Buddies. After that, on Friday week, the more serious business of continuing to climb away from the Premiership relegation zone resumes with a trip to Aberdeen. At the weekend and at Pittodrie, manager Paul Hartley will be looking for his players to continue the form they were hitting by the end of December. And now we look at the men who are likely to be key if Dundee are to continue their revival during the second half of the campaign. Faissal El Bakhtaoui The French-Moroccan needed time to adjust to the step up from League 1, where he scored goals for fun at Dunfermline, to life in the Premiership. In a couple of appearances right before the break his play suggested he’s now done that and is ready to make a telling contribution. There’s not a lot of the 24-year-old but his technique, pace and movement off the ball more than make up for his lack of physical stature. He’s capable of both creating chances for Marcus Haber and getting goals when playing just off the big man. Tom Hateley Another of the men who joined after the season was under way — he arrived after a successful spell in Poland with Slask Wroclaw. Having spent four years at Motherwell before heading to England with Tranmere and then spending those two years on the continent, he knows all about what it takes to succeed in Scottish football. Hateley has settled in quickly at Dens and has had an increasing influence on the team. If that continues between now and May, the rest of the season could be a fight for the top six and not a struggle to beat the drop. Marcus Haber The Canadian international has scored three times in 11 appearances since joining up at the end of October. In terms of goals that may not be a spectacular return but the former St Johnstone man has also chipped in with three or four assists. Most of all, though, he’s become the focal point of Dundee’s attacking play and his presence has allowed others to get forward and hurt the opposition. If he keeps doing that he could be the main man between now and the end of the campaign. Craig Wighton The highly-rated kid was influential in the couple of months before Christmas and has worked very well with Haber in the Dundee attack. Manager Paul Hartley has remained careful not to put too much pressure on a player who, despite now having decent first-team experience, is still only 19. At the same time, the gaffer knows an in-form Wighton can be a handful for any defence in the Premiership and will be looking to him to stay in the team. If he does and is playing well, it’s likely to mean Dundee are picking up wins on a regular basis. Paul McGowan It won’t just be the newcomers to the team who have a big part to play and the manager will be looking to his “Mr Reliable” to continue the consistently good form he’s shown in his two-and-a-half years at Dens Park. McGowan adds bite in the middle of the park for Dundee and drives those around him on. He also rarely wastes possession and that’s why he’s one of the first names on the team sheet each week. The 29-year-old is arguably one of the most under-rated midfielders in Scottish football — but not by anyone at his club.
  4. Sitting on 22 points after 21 games doesn’t mean the Dark Blues can afford to take their foot off the pedal but it has given them a platform to put some real distance between themselves and the drop zone when league hostilities resume at the end of the month. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for a team who, in late October, were three points adrift at the foot of the table after collecting only six points from their first 11 games. And Tele Sport reckons the ‘H-factor’ has played a major role as the Dee have picked themselves off the canvas. HABER There can be no doubt the big striker’s arrival in October coincided with an upturn in fortunes at Dens. The Canadian brought with him something Dundee previously didn’t have up front — presence. Marcus’ ability to hold the ball up has allowed the team to get themselves up the park in bigger numbers and, as a result, become more of an attacking threat. Haber’s three goals have also been a welcome addition to a side which struggled to find the net in the early part of the season. HATELEY Former Motherwell man Tom Hateley took a bit of time to settle in at his new club but recent performances suggest he will be hard to dislodge from his midfield berth. Strong in the tackle and with an engine that lasts the distance, Hateley brings with him a terrific delivery from set-pieces which Dundee have already benefitted from on several occasions. HOLT Now in his second season with the club, the former Queen of the South man is adding consistency to his game. That is shown by the fact Kevin has started every game this season — the only Dundee player to have done so. His versatility has been a factor in that stat as, along with left-back, the 23-year-old has been deployed in a three-at-the-back and also in the left wing-back role. He grabbed a goal in the 3-1 home loss to Aberdeen. At 6ft 1in, Kevin also adds height to the rearguard when defending set-plays into the box. HOME RUN It took them a while to pick up their first home league win of the season at Dens but, since that 2-0 victory over Motherwell in November, the Dark Blues have never looked back. The next four games on their own turf have produced three wins — against Inverness Caley Thistle, Hearts and St Johnstone — and one draw (Ross County). When you take into account that the Jambos, Saints and County all finished in the top six last season, it’s a return not to be scoffed at. Too often clubs describe their grounds as a “fortress” but, if Dundee can maintain their home run, that’s exactly what Dens will become. HARTLEY Finally, and deservedly so, the biggest factor in Dundee’s reversal in fortunes must surely be credited to boss Paul Hartley. That 2-0 defeat to Partick back in October left the Dee down, and, in some people’s view, well and truly on their way out. The manager’s position was also put under the microscope but he galvanised his side and, not for the first time in his Dens reign, they have responded in magnificent fashion to a setback. That’s a sure sign the gaffer has faith in his current squad and they, in turn, believe in him.
  5. Kevin Gomis - 5 Despite being sent off against Kilmarnock in his second game, Gomis had a pretty strong start to life at Dens. He brought plenty of experience from the French top flight and provided some added steel to Dundee’s back three. However, across time mistakes have crept into his game and he was hooked at half-time in the recent win over Hearts. The impending return of James McPake and the emergence of Kostadin Gadzhalov, along with consistent star Darren O’Dea, means there’s every likelihood Gomis will be on his way out of Dundee sooner or later. James Vincent - 6 The ex-ICT midfielder has recovered from a poor start to become a vital cog in recent weeks. His game has always been based around a terrific work rate and energy, which was lacking a little at the beginning of the season. In hindsight, it would seem he wasn’t 100 per cent fit when he first arrived from the Highland capital. Tom Hateley - 6 Hateley’s move has coincided with a rise up the table for Paul Hartley’s side. His set-piece delivery can be excellent at times and it’s given Dundee, who aren’t blessed with much attacking arsenal, a different weapon to use. Fans can sometimes become frustrated by his use of the ball in open play. Danny Williams - 3 A massive disappointment. The winger was supposed to bring pace and width to a Dundee side that badly lacked both last season. Instead, he’s been anonymous in most games as defender Kevin Holt tends to do the work up and down the left flank instead. Michael Duffy - 2 Another player who was supposed to add pace and width to Dundee’s attack, Duffy could do little to influence games and hasn’t been seen since a substitute appearance in October’s 2-0 defeat against Partick Thistle. The on loan Celtic winger will do well to force himself back into contention. Mark O’Hara - 6 O’Hara looked to be a revelation when he scored once and helped make the other two in Dundee’s 3-1 win away at Ross County on opening day, as his new boss stationed him at the attacking midfield position. O’Hara has come back down to earth since, but fans still appreciate his all-action style in the centre of the park. Yordi Teijsse - 3 It’s been tough on the striker signed on a two-year deal as a project. Instead of being brought along slowly he was thrust into the team when Dundee sold both Greg Stewart and Kane Hemmings before the end of the summer transfer window. As expected, he struggled. While he was effective in the air, there wasn’t much else he brought to the attack. It’s hard to see a way back for him as he hasn’t featured since the win over Hamilton in October. Faissal El Bakhtaoui - 4 The top goalscorer in League One last season has shown signs recently of becoming an important member of the Dundee attack, including scoring in the 3-0 victory over St Johnstone. Although, for the mean-time, two goals from 16 games is not what Dundee had in mind when they snapped him up on a free transfer in August. Marcus Haber - 9 Finding the back of the net three times in 11 games isn’t a great return, but the Canadian is a prime example of why good strikers can be worth so much more than just goals. His ability to hold the ball up, thereby making the ball stick in dangerous areas, while simultaneously taking pressure off a previously battered Dundee backline, has been little short of invaluable. He’s been an excellent addition and will be one of the biggest reasons Dundee avoid the drop should Paul Hartley’s side survive this campaign.
  6. Prior to the visit to Rugby Park, the revitalised Dark Blues had won three out of the last four games, with the only defeat coming at Ibrox when Rangers netted an injury-time winner. Paul Hartley’s side travelled to Ayrshire in confident frame of mind but were second best to Kilmarnock all day. Hateley admitted Dundee’s display was as bad as when they were in the middle of a previous six-game losing streak and the 27-year-old midfielder insists the players all need to take a long, hard look at themselves before next weekend’s crunch game at home to Ross County. He said: “A bad day at the office is probably the best way to describe the game. “No-one really turned up and it was a disappointing afternoon. It just wasn’t good enough all round. I don’t think we will play well every week. We have been on a good little run of performances and we didn’t see it coming today, to be honest. It was a big surprise and everybody in the changing-room is disappointed. We have another big game next week now and we just need to put this behind us. It was one of those off days that are going to happen during the season. Not everyone is going to play well every week and you just have to try to be as consistent as you can. Hopefully this is just one of those bad weeks that we have not had for a while. We have to put it behind us and kick on next week. Hateley added: “This is a big month and we have to keep being positive and confident. Like I said, we have been on a decent run, winning three out of four. Today wasn’t the same side we have been recently which is the most disappointing thing really. We were in a big slump earlier in the season and managed to come out the other side of it, but today was almost going back to it. We didn’t pick up enough first balls, we didn’t pick up enough second balls . . . you could go through the whole team and say nobody was good enough. I am sure the boys will go home and look at themselves, everybody is a man in there and doesn’t need telling that no-one did their job well enough. But we will go back into training next week and look to put things right. Killie took the lead in the 22nd minute when the ball broke fortuitously to Rory McKenzie who shot into the net off the post past Dundee keeper Scott Bain from 14 yards.
  7. The Dark Blues’ recent revival came to a shuddering halt in Ayrshire with Paul Hartley’s side producing their poorest performance for weeks as they lost 2-0. Hateley candidly confessed that Dundee “didn’t turn up” on the day but he and the rest of the players are determined to put things right when Ross County come calling at Dens this week. He said: “It is a tight old league. We have put a few results together and went from bottom to sixth. That’s the way it is. I think in the past, the boys have said they have drawn too many games. Obviously, you never want to lose a game but you would much rather try to win a few than draw a lot.” Hateley added: “We have had a bad result against Kilmarnock and obviously we didn’t turn up. So we will give it a right good go next week. “You never want to lose a game but we have been on a good run of form and I am fully confident that next week we will be back to the way we have been for the last month.” Kevin Gomis, who missed the Kilmarnock game because he was back in France to be by his wife’s side as she gave birth, should return to training this week and be in contention for the match against the Staggies. Meanwhile, Dundee’s James Vincent, who was replaced in just the 25th minute against Kilmarnock by Danny Williams, went off as he was feeling ill.
  8. But midfielder Tom Hateley has insisted that nobody at the Dens Park club is getting carried away with their recent revival. The Dens Park side will be looking to make it win number four in their last five games when they head to Kilmarnock at the weekend, and Hateley said: “At the moment it’s about taking each game as it comes. “We definitely don’t want to start looking too far ahead. You can see how tight the league is. “We’ll try to beat Killie and see where that takes us. “It would be silly getting ahead of ourselves and looking at where we want to finish. “At the moment it’s about getting results back to back and being hard to beat. “It’s working for us so why change it?”
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