The home stretch starts now.

An eight-game sprint after a marathon that has seen us meander off course, come close to breakdown, seem to hit the wall repeatedly, pick ourselves up off the ground on a couple of occasions – but also endure one or two Paula Radcliffe moments.

This is a time for leaders to step forward – something that has been strikingly absent really since our last European adventure. We need guys like Liam Gordon, Andy Considine and Dan Phillips to pick up their form and drive us away from the play-off place.

The league table remains tight. Five points separate eighth and 11th, with Ross County – still at the bottom of that pack – somewhat ominously in the best form of any of the teams.

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It’s going to be tense.

The league table is a sorry state for Saints. Six wins out of a possible thirty games this season. A goal difference of minus 20. Four points out of the last 15 available. Opportunities in so many games thrown away – particularly against other teams in the bottom six.

The final dash for the finish line starts with a home game against Dundee. Talk about pressure. The Dens Park side have managed to maintain a nice gap over the rest of the bottom six and are not realistically now part of the relegation conversation. They’ve been excellent in attack for the bulk of the season and have been by far the better team in both of our games so far, although they threw away a comfortable lead in one and needed the help of VAR to get back into the other.

There is a frailty there at the back for Dundee – only Ross County and Livingston have conceded more, and even Saints have conceded nine fewer.

But they’ve scored almost double – DOUBLE! – the number of goals Saints have, and therein lies the problem. We don’t create enough chances, and when we do we don’t put them away.

So, an uphill battle then. We’ve pulled performances out at crucial times earlier in the season, and we need to do so again sooner rather than later. Any team in that morass at the bottom who puts a string of results together now will very quickly find themselves clear of danger.

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After Dundee, we play Hibernian before wrapping up the pre-split fixtures at home to Kilmarnock. Our record against both teams is one win and one defeat in the prior two games. A third of our wins this term have come against those two teams. Unfortunately, both seem to be finding their stride as both battle for European football. Hibs have taken 11 points from the last 15 available, while Kilmarnock’s 5-2 win over St Mirren last time out was one of the most impressive results of the season, coming from two down to blast in five goals in 18 minutes to record a convincing win.

Five goals in a game is a pipe dream for us. Five across the next three would be a significant upturn. For me, we need to start with Benjamin Kimpioka and Nicky Clark, supported by a midfield of Daniel Phillips, Matt Smith and Graham Carey. David Keltjens at right wing-back and Tony Gallagher on the other side, with licence to get forward, is probably our best bet. This would, however, be a great time for Drey Wright to appear back from injury out of nowhere to give us a boost going forward.

I thoroughly recommend reading all of the Herald’s football newsletters – there’s nothing better than getting a real insight into the clubs around us and the content my fellow contributors across the country is excellent.

Erstwhile Dee and regular Terrace Podcast contributor Gary Cocker writes the Dens Dispatch – but has unfortunately this week fallen into the classic Dark Blues fan trap of claiming, without any provocation, that Dundee fans don’t care about St Johnstone.

To be fair, he recognises that claiming you’re not bothered by the presence of another team usually means exactly the opposite, though I’m not sure the claim that their most enjoyable rivalry in recent years has been with Hamilton. Although that perhaps illustrates neatly just where Dundee’s station has been for the past 20 years or so – the perennial yo-yo club.

Alas, that looks to be at an end this season. Dundee have done this year what we have done for so many over the past two decades. This may well turn out to be the first time Dundee have finished above us in the league in 16 years.

In that time we’ve racked up three major trophies, multiple top-six finishes and numerous European adventures. Dundee have managed one near bankruptcy event, multiple relegations and numerous other embarrassments along the way.

We can let them have this season – but hopefully the tide turns back the right way next term.