BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
JOE Cardle admits he is fully aware Dunfermline cannot afford to drop the pace in their relentless pursuit of the League One title as they approach the ‘last hurdle’.
The Pars can surely rule out Ayr United from the championship race if they emerge victorious when the teams clash at Somerset Park this afternoon.
With the comfort of an 11-point advantage over both the Honest Men and Peterhead, who are second on goal difference, the Fifers are closing in on the point in the season where they can clinch the silverware and promotion back to the second-tier.
However, after suffering the disappointment of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Albion Rovers, Cardle is wary of the East End Park side stumbling on the home straight and knows they must maintain the high standards they have set for most of the campaign.
He said: “We’re nearly at the end of it now. We’re just at the final hurdle but we want to push on and keep winning games.
“I know we’ve done it throughout the season, but we’ve got to keep doing it.
“It’s the last hurdle. There’s only eight games left and each game for us is a cup final and the three points are crucial.
“Picking up single points, like we did the other night, is not going to be good enough.
“We know the three points is massive for us and we’ve got to start on Saturday.
“Ayr have got to win all their games. They’re chasing us and the pressure’s on us. We know that.
“We’re sitting at the top of the table, like we have for most of the season, but we know the pressure’s going to be on us.
“It’s going to be a hard game but we’ve dealt with pressure throughout the season so hopefully we can do it for the home stretch.”
Cardle was red-carded the last time the teams met back in December but was relieved to see his team-mates still win 2-1.
The former Ross County and Raith Rovers winger successfully appealed the dismissal but confessed it was a nerve-racking experience hoping the Pars could survive with 10 men.
Since then, the Fifers have lost just once in 11 league games and have won eight.
However, Cardle insists there can be no measure of complacency against an Ayr team battling to stay in the title hunt.
He added: “At the time, it was horrible. Getting sent-off is never nice, but especially in a big game like that.
“Thankfully, we came through and got the three points.
“It’s always going to be a hard place to go to, we know it’s going to be a tough game and they’re going to be up for it.
“For us to go there and get the three points, we’ve got to be at it from the start.
“We’ve got to be in their faces but we’ve got to play our game as well. We’ve got to get ball down and create chances and put them away.”