Motherwell travel to Dens Park in the Ladbrokes Premiership tomorrow, looking to follow up from the important three points picked up against Ross County last weekend.
The Steelmen currently occupy ninth spot in the table and are just two points off the top six, but Mark McGhee and his side also sit just three points ahead of Dundee, highlighting the tight nature of the league.
Dundee earned a hugely important win over Hamilton to set them up nicely for this clash, having strung together six defeats on the bounce prior to that 1-0 victory last weekend.
And it proved to be a big six points, not just for tomorrow’s opposition but for the entire table, with a mere six points separating sixth and 12th.
Both the Dee’s wins have come away from home this term, with Paul Hartley’s side picking up just two points on their home turf in 12 games. But the Steelmen will be wary of the task at hand on Saturday after failing to break the Dark Blues resistance in the 0-0 draw at Fir Park back in late August.
Other examples of the clubs defensive capabilities were on show in their hard-fought 1-0 and 2-1 defeats to Celtic and Rangers respectively, where both sides of the Old Firm scraped narrowly past Paul Hartley’s men at Dens Park.
Mark McGhee knows that his side must prepare for Dundee at their best tomorrow afternoon, and admitted that it will be a tough test.
He said: “Dundee aren’t any different to the rest of us in this league, I’ve seen Dundee play poorly but I’ve seen them play well, I’ve seen the same with Inverness, Ross County, Partick Thistle.
“We’ve got to go in to every game thinking whoever we’re playing will play well, that they’re capable of it and that day they will play well – that way we won’t be taken by surprise.
“Dundee have that in them, they’re at home and the first goal is really important I feel.”
Keith Lasley and Stevie Hammell both trained this week as the experienced duo look to recover for the trip to Dundee, but Carl McHugh is still out of action due to concussion.
Scott Bain is fit to return to action for the home side after the keeper missed the 1-0 victory over Hamilton, while Kevin Gomis and Nicky Low are set to return to fitness as well. Mark O’Hara and Faissal El Bakhtaoui will remain sidelined for Hartley’s side.
‘Well defender Ben Heneghan has enjoyed a stellar start to his Motherwell career, forming a solid partnership with veteran centre-back Stephen McManus.
Yet another impressive display was on show last weekend as the English centre-back limited the chances for prolific County striker Liam Boyce so he remained on seven league goals for the season so far.
Ahead of the Dundee clash, the 6ft 4 defender insists it is important to get another big three points on the board this weekend.
He said: “I think the team played really well on Saturday, it was a positive result and we need to build on that.
“Obviously we know we’ve got to start getting the points on the board and a positive result on Saturday will hopefully push us on.
“To be honest I think it was just the second half against Inverness where we were really poor, but we built on it on Saturday with a good performance.”
He added: “Cadds and Lionel did really well and Lee coming in I thought he was class. I think it helped having wingers on either side, for my personal performance I like having a winger on either side but we play like the manager says and it was a positive result – that’s what matters.
“After a loss everyone’s head goes a bit but you just know that the next game is around the corner and you have to build on it – the next day you’re in training, you’re getting ready for that next game and we done it right and it showed.”
[pullquote]Dundee are not going to be an easy game so we’ve got to bring our A-game, be the best we can be, take it to them, win the game and hopefully have a nice break.[/pullquote]
Despite Dundee’s position in the table, the English defender knows it is important for everyone in a Motherwell shirt to be at their best.
He said: “We need the three points on Saturday, Dundee are not going to be an easy game so we’ve got to bring our A-game, be the best we can be, take it to them, win the game and hopefully have a nice break.
“We’ve had a few not so good results, but you’ve just got to build on it. There’s only 12 teams in the league so it’s very close – Celtic are obviously up there but everyone else is still fighting for it so we just have to focus on the three points.”
The change in pace is something Ben admits he is still adjusting to. He said: “There’s been a lot of breaks, I’m not used to it to be honest I’m used to Saturday-Tuesday every week but it’s good for recovery and you can get a bit more training in as well so I’ll take the positives from it.”
Today’s visitors Dundee arrive on the back of a 1-0 win over Hamilton Academical, where a goal from Paul McGowan was enough to secure three points at the SuperSeal stadium.
The 2016/17 season represents an opportunity to return the club to a top half finish.
Appointed in 2014, the ex-Hearts midfielder got off to a brilliant start to his Dee managerial career – guiding the club to the Championship title followed by a sixth placed spot in the top flight in the 2014/15 season.
‘Well fans need no reminder that that was the season the club slumped into the Premiership play-offs and survived in stunning fashion by beating Rangers 6-1 on aggregate.
Last season though, Dundee finished eighth as the Steelmen surged to fifth, and tomorrow’s match could bear fruit towards both sides aspirations of a top six finish.
For the Dark Blues though, it won’t be plain sailing after they lost a number of key players from their squad.
Midfielder Greg Stewart departed the club for Birmingham City in a £500,000 deal and will be taking with him a large chunk of Dundee’s goal-threat.
Last season, the 26-year-old scored nine league goals from his left-sided role and was his clubs second top scorer – the creative attacker also notched 15 assists.
The season before that though, when the Dee clinched a top-half finish, the Scotsman scored 13 in the league and assisted 10.
But perhaps an even bigger loss was the departure of Kane Hemmings, who left the Ladbrokes Premiership for English League One side Oxford United.
Scoring 22 goals last season was not only huge for Dundee but left the Englishman as the second top scorer in the league, only behind Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths.
Such impeccable goal-scoring form meant the 25-year-old forward only lasted one year north of the border after making the switch from Barnsley in 2014.
Two such important players will always be hard to replace, but with the captures of Faissal El Bakhtaoui from Dunfermline and Michael Duffy on loan from champions Celtic, Paul Hartley may have found a source of goals for his side.
But so far this season it has been 28-year-old Scottish forward Rory Loy who has proven will be able to lead the line after the departure of Hemmings.
After signing from Falkirk last summer, the striker scored nine in the league last season, but has already scored two this term, in the form of a brace against Ross County.
Both Mark McGhee and Paul Hartley will be confident in their sides chances this weekend, after drawing earlier this season. In the three games last term the ‘Well won once, drew once and lost once – making this one tough to call for the neutrals.
With a big season ahead for Paul Hartley and his side and with both sides looking to move up the table, they will both be coming in to today’s match fired up for the occasion, which will prove to be a tough test for both sides.