Dee rookie has split all fig­ured out

On-loan Dundee striker A- Jay is aim­ing for safety

Evening Telegraph (Late Extra Edition) - - SPORTS - By TOM DUTHIE

IT still has its crit­ics but, al­most 18 years af­ter it was first in­tro­duced, for foot­ball fans in Scot­land the top-flight split each April has be­come the norm.

Dundee’s Premier­ship rookie A-jay Leitch-smith ad­mits, how­ever, the con­cept of not play­ing ev­ery other side in the league the same num­ber of times over the course of the sea­son has taken a bit of time for him to get his head round.

But the man who’s on loan from Shrews­bury Town for the rest of the cam­paign does know it makes ev­ery game vi­tal.

“When I was down in Eng­land, I knew they had a split in the Premier­ship up here but, to be hon­est, I didn’t re­ally know how it worked,” he said.

“Once I knew about the in­ter­est from Dundee, I found out a bit about what hap­pens.

“It’s some­thing I’m not used to. Down south there have usu­ally been 24 teams in the league I’ve been play­ing in and you play each other twice, once at home and once away, so it’s sim­ple.

“It’s a strange one for me. You’re telling me we can play some teams three times at home and oth­ers three times away — I’m not sure how they would take that down south.

“In the end you have to make the most of it and try to pick up as many points as you pos­si­bly can.”

For Dundee, even a win­ning run be­tween now and the top flight di­vid­ing will not be enough to se­cure a top-half fin­ish.

While that’s dis­ap­point­ing, Leitch­smith ap­pre­ci­ates how im­por­tant it is the Dark Blues are per­form­ing well when the fi­nal post-split five games come round.

“It’s not long un­til the split now and we want to gather as many points as we can and see where it takes us,” he added.

“We were aim­ing for the top six but it’s not on for us now.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing be­cause we know what we can bring on our day and we have proved that in quite a few of our games.

“We’ve not got as many points as we should have, even from the games when we’ve been play­ing well.”

For the sec­ond sea­son run­ning, Dundee are now fac­ing a bat­tle to re­tain their top-flight place and Leitch-smith knows that means ev­ery game from here on in is go­ing to be vi­tal.

Be­fore the split, Dundee face a dif­fi­cult run of games against top-six out­fits Aberdeen, Hearts, Celtic and Rangers.

But Leitch-smith knows any points from those mas­sive games could prove vi­tal.

“Ob­vi­ously, the last five games, par­tic­u­larly if you are in the bot­tom half, are big ones.

“You are play­ing the teams around you in the league, so one or two wins or de­feats can push you one way or the other.

“If you lose two games on the bounce you can be dragged back down into the trou­ble but, if you win a cou­ple, you are pulling away from it.

“For us, though, it’s im­por­tant we pick up a few points be­tween now and the split so we are in as good a po­si­tion as pos­si­ble.

“Then if we go and beat the teams around us we can do our­selves a lot of good.”

De­spite the dif­fi­cult po­si­tion the Dens Park men find them­selves in, the English­man is lik­ing his first taste of the Scot­tish game.

“I’ve en­joyed my­self up here. I didn’t know what to ex­pect but I’ve en­joyed it.

“It’s quite fran­tic and it’s maybe a lit­tle bit more open at times and, as a striker, that is go­ing to suit me.”

The Dark Blues only have top-six op­po­nents left to face be­fore the split.

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