MARTIN Woods insists Dundee must learn from their last Kilmarnock clash – and avoid allowing Stevie Clarke's side surge ahead at all costs.

Woods recalls Jim McIntyre's men's recent visit to Rugby Park in mid-December when they dominated the early proceedings before losing the first goal and ultimately crashing 3-1 in Ayrshire.

The second-bottom Dark Blues are now preparing to go head-to-head tonight with their fourth-top visitors who've earned themselves an impressive reputation for protecting valuable leads, so Woods has urged his relegation-threatened team-mates to draw first-blood in their crunch Tayside encounter as they continue their fight for top-flight survival.

Woods said: "Killie are a tough team. They're hard to play against because they're so well-organised.

"We played there a few weeks ago and we should have been three or four up in the first-half.

"We didn't take our chances, though, and then they went and got a scrappy opening goal.

"I think it's important that we get ahead in this game. We saw it the other night when they were playing against Hearts.

"Killie are maybe not a team that like forcing it and trying to get back into the game.

"They're a team that like to get ahead and sit in, and be organised. They become hard to break down that way.

"So that first goal will be vital. Hopefully we get it but if we don't we'll have to stick at it, and break them down.

"In that recent game down at Rugby Park, we created a lot of chances so we'll be aiming to do the same again.

"All the Killie players know their jobs. It's massive and just to have that clarity in knowing what they have to do in certain stages of the game is everything.

"On paper, you might say they're not all that good but when they all come together you can see this season just what a force they've been.

"They've done absolutely brilliant up until now."

Dundee's new-look side drew 1-1 away to Hamilton at the weekend and former Ross County midfielder Woods is convinced the Taysider's can kick on now that their mass new arrivals have had some precious time to find their feet.

He added: "The performance was decent if you consider everybody was just trying to get to know each other.

"We had about one day to try to get to do so in training.

"That's the positive I would take from it. We didn't really have any time to work with each other.

"Everyone just sort of pitches up on the day so it's quite a hard thing to do, especially in such a big game.

"So it's a hard thing to get with just one days' training. But now we've had a couple of days in each other's company to work on things like shape.

"But I seen enough signs the other day to tell me that the new players will have a very big impact.

"So we'll be able to do well going forward."

Meanwhile, McIntyre has called on his players to reproduce the same fighting spirit they showed in their last home Premiership outing which ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Motherwell, courtesy for a penalty to the Steelmen.

He said: “That’s the level of performance that we want to be playing at.

“We need to be better in the final third but in terms of tempo and the physicality we showed, it was good. We’ll have to be like that against Kilmarnock.

“They’re a strong team, with good flair in the wider areas and full-backs who bomb on. They have a lot seven out of 10s in their team. That’s why they’ve been so consistent.

“They counter very quickly and they counter very well.

“They’re used to winning. That comes from having a lot of players who know their jobs. There is less need for structure to be put open them because of that.

“From our point of view, the fans were superb here last time. We’re going to need them again. It’s a cup final for every week just now.

“We’ll be doing everything we can to get the points."

Dundee defender Darren O'Dea has recovered from a virus and is fit for selection.

Meanwhile, Alex Bruce wants to find enjoyment at Kilmarnock as he looks to make up for lost time at Wigan.

The 34-year-old centre-back joined Killie until the end of the season after leaving Latics last week.

Bruce, the son of former Manchester United defender Steve Bruce, played only 13 times for the club promoted to the Championship last season after signing in the summer of 2017.

Ahead of the trip to Dundee in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Wednesday night, where he hopes to make his Killie debut, Bruce said: "I want to come up and enjoy it.

"It has been a frustrating 18 months at Wigan, I didn't play anywhere near as much as I would have wanted.

"I made it clear to the manager at Wigan that I wanted to leave because I wanted to play.

"I want to enjoy my last few years playing, not sat in the stand or on the substitutes bench.

"I intend to play up here, I intend to give it a proper go. I left my family, my kids, back in England, I mean business coming up here, that's for sure.

"I am looking forward to the challenge, the team are at the top end of the league, I want to finish the season as strong as I can."

Bruce watched his first Old Firm game at the end of last year and is looking forward to the rough and tumble of Scottish football.

He said: "I actually experienced my first Old Firm game not long ago when Rangers won 1-0. It was some experience.

"Sometimes Scottish football doesn't get the credit it deserves.

"There has always been good players up here and it is a good competitive league and I am looking forward to playing in it

"I always liked the physical side of it, the way the lads get stuck in and when I came up to the game when Kilmarnock played Rangers that pretty much confirmed everything I thought about Scottish football, the way the lads dug in for one another, the effort they showed and once I saw that I was very keen to jump on the bandwagon and get involved."

The former Ipswich, Leeds and Hull player revealed that Bruce senior was glad to see his son give Scottish football a go.

He said: "He has always enjoyed Scottish football as well. I think he enjoys the rivalries and physical aspects of the game. He believes it is an opportunity that I should grab with both hands."

Dundee defender Darren O'Dea has done some light training and could return from illness for Wednesday's Ladbrokes Premiership match against Kilmarnock.

Jesse Curran is also battling to overcome the knock that forced him out of the last two games.

Eamonn Brophy is also a doubt with a tight hamstring and fellow forward Conor McAleny is hoping to recover from a bout of illness.

Kilmarnock re-signed Youssouf Mulumbu on loan from Celtic on transfer deadline day and he will be assessed by boss Steve Clarke.

But striker Kris Boyd will definitely be sitting out the game tonight as he serves the second of his two-match ban.