Dig out the passports and blow the dust off the sombreros, lads - the Dees are off to Europe!

I am, of course, being facetious. Given you could throw a medium sized rug over two-thirds of the league just now, Dundee's lofty perch of fifth spot is something of a mirage, but it's one that's reassuring to behold for now as well as matching some records that have lain dormant for too long. Thanks to other fixtures taking place on Sunday, Dundee sat fourth when the clocks went back, our highest position at that time of year since the late 1980s; combined with our three consecutive clean sheets for the first time since 1990, having lost fewer games than Rangers so far this season, and fans can be forgiven for feeling optimistic ahead of the Light Blues' arrival at the Scot Foam Stadium on Wednesday evening (at least until the inevitable soft penalty is given by VAR).

Like peace, optimism is hard won and fragile to maintain. Despite a VAR call going against Dundee in West Lothian on Saturday, the players were unperturbed, and took advantage of another (correct) VAR review leading to a red card for Cristian Montano to secure only our second win of the season. Football is a game of fine margins and sliding doors moments, and Saturday has something of that feel. A failure to convert a numerical advantage into a win could have calcified fears that we struggle to apply the killer blow to opponents. It would also, in the final analysis, have left us in 10th spot without an away win to our name, and with an even stronger sense of missed opportunities coming back to haunt us later in the season.

What was most encouraging about Saturday, other than the three points heading back up to Tayside, was the sense of a team well drilled, well coached and understanding its collective and individual responsibilities, particularly along the back line. Our clean sheet record in recent games speaks for itself, as does Tony Docherty's stated belief in building a team from the back and supporting that statement by making Joe Shaughnessy his first signing and spending money on Trevor Carson. I've spoken about Carson in previous columns, but in truth, he had nothing to do in this game other than make sure that some pot shots were flying wide of the post. Livi failed to register a single shot on target, and while some of that will be on their players, the cohesiveness of our defence has to be lauded, too.

Docherty's preferred back three formation is reminiscent of Scotland under Steve Clarke, with the now-fit Aaron Donnelly playing the Kieran Tierney role at centre half to push up and support the midfield and wing backs. Normally the idea of a centre half floating up would give a Dundee fan palpitations, but the steady, no-fuss presence of Shaughnessy quells those fears, as does the surprisingly solid performances turned in by Antonio Portales. I think a lot of Scottish football fans allowed themselves a wee smirk when they saw Dundee were signing players from Mexico - particularly ones as fond of slide tackles and overhead kicks as Portales was in his signing show reel - but now that he's back from injury, Portales has really shown his class. In fact, Dundee have yet to concede a goal with him on the pitch this season.

Owen Beck has obviously nailed down the left wing back starting berth, as well as being an early favourite for player of the year nominations, but the right wing back slot is still being hotly contested by Josh Mulligan, Cammy Kerr and Jordan McGhee, with McGhee favoured at the weekend. In truth, this might be the only position in defence that swings back and forth depending on the qualities of our opponents, as well as decisions made further up the pitch. Knowing that those other players are available, along with Ricki Lamie and Lee Ashcroft, to step in if needed demonstrates the depth improvement in our squad since our last Premiership stint.

Docherty will have his hands full in the best possible way to keep the whole squad happy, however. Like a Lego set, the Dundee squad has many different combinations that can be put together depending on the demands of the game. As we head into a punishing winter schedule of games, Docherty has acknowledged he will utilise all his players, and it's a welcome surprise that this statement reassures rather than concerns the Dark Blue faithful. Finlay Robertson was desperately unlucky to be dropped for Mo Sylla against Livi, but the support were still excited to see how the combative midfielder would fare against Livi in his first start for the club.

The one piece of the jigsaw that still needs to be worked out is up top. While we have terrific creative players and real attacking threat elsewhere in the side, our strikers have yet to catch fire, and no combination has seemed to click just yet. However, as long as the defence continues to hold steady and even chip in with goals as it did at the weekend, perhaps our passports don't yet need to go back in the drawer.