Paul Hartley insists confidence is at its “highest” level since he became Dundee boss as he prepares for the keenly-awaited William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final game against Rangers.
The Dens Park side are unbeaten in eight games and go into Ibrox on Saturday on the back of morale-boosting goalless draw at Celtic Park in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Wednesday night.
A fine performance was all the more commendable given the Taysiders started with an under-strength side at a venue where they had lost 11 goals on their last two visits.
Hartley, who took over at Dundee in February 2014, believes his side, who sit in fifth place in the table, are in great shape ahead of their return to Glasgow to face Mark Warburton’s team.
“I think it (confidence) is at the highest in my time here,” he said.
“We have had one defeat since the turn of the year, a narrow 1-0 away to Aberdeen.
“I just feel a fantastic team spirit here. We haven’t a big squad, we might only have 19 for Saturday, but I have a real belief in the squad.
“We didn’t go to Celtic and try to park the bus, we went there to try and win the game.
“It has been two years in progress, building a group of players.
“There has been a lot of changes within that but we have gone to Celtic Park a couple of times and taken a couple of beatings but last night showed me a real improvement in the players’ mentality.
“But they have to go again on Saturday.
“It is a massive game for us, a fantastic incentive to try to reach the semi-final but we know we are up against a good Rangers team.
“Mark has done a brilliant job there and they play in a certain way and style and we have to go there and produce a good performance.”
Hartley believes skipper Gary Harkins and defender Darren O’Dea, should he recover from a groin complaint, will handle any flak they get from the Gers fans following comments they made about the Championship leaders.
Rangers have always maintained they are the same club despite liquidation in 2012 but Harkins described the Light Blues as a “new club” although later stated on his Twitter account that it was “just a wee joke took too far”.
Former Celtic defender O’Dea earlier called for Rangers to be stripped of league titles won during the years when many players were paid via employee benefit trusts (EBTs), amid an ongoing legal dispute between the tax authorities and Murray Group, former owners of the oldco club.
“It wouldn’t have mattered whatever they said, there is always going to be a brilliant atmosphere,” said Hartley.
“They are old enough and experienced enough to handle the occasion, they have been there before.
“Gary is the captain and hopefully he can bring a real captain’s performance.
“I expect close to a full house and it is how the players handle that. They have got to show bravery, we can’t freeze on the occasion.
“We will help them as much as we can but they have to really play and be brave and trust each other.
“It is a real test for us. We knew we had two games in three days in Glasgow. You are always going to be tested.
“We came through the first one and it is how we handle the second one but I have real trust and belief in the players that they can handle the occasion.”
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