Dunfermline winger Joe Cardle reckons the Pars will be better prepared for a promotion challenge next season if they fail to make the play-offs this term.
The midweek draw with Queen of the South has left Allan Johnston’s side 11 points adrift of fourth place Morton ahead of today’s trip to basement side St Mirren.
Despite suffering only one defeat in 13 league matches, the Fife outfit have been left playing catch-up due to a slow start to the campaign in their year back in Championship.
And playmaker Cardle insists readjusting to life in the second tier will stand the team in good stead for the following season.
Cardle said: “A lot of people had high expectations for us at the start of the season, thinking we could be in the mix to go straight up again.
“It’s going to take time; it’s taken the club, the players and management a bit of time getting used to playing games at a higher level.
“If we don’t manage to do it this season we should be looking to do it next season for sure. It’s a tough league and everyone knows that.
”It’s going to be a tough league to get out of but I think this club are more than capable of doing it. We’ve done it once before not so long ago.”
Dunfermline are also only 11 points clear of the Buddies and Cardle is targeting a victory that will help the Pars breathe a little easier.
He said: “Saturday is a chance for us to go and push on again. They’ll be a bit deflated after the Raith defeat.
“We go there with confidence even though we only managed a draw with Queen of the South the other night, confidence is high and the boys are playing well and scoring goals.
“Because the league is so tight, we’re not too far from getting into the top four but if you drop a few points you can be in the relegation mix as well.
“Saturday is a big game for us and hopefully we can go there, get the points and push ourselves to be in the mix for the top four, which is the main aim this season.”
Cardle has not started a game since the Boxing Day draw with Falkirk but insists he is ready for action, especially after putting in extra hours away from the pitch.
He added: “It’s been very frustrating and I just obviously want more game time. It does get to you sometimes but I’ve been keeping my head down and working hard on the training pitch and hopefully when I do get the chance I take it with both hands.
“You’re kind of climbing the walls when you go home at night because you’re not playing although it was good to get on the other night against Queen of the South.
“I normally go for a run on a Sunday if I’ve not played much football, I keep myself fit in training and do extra afterwards. I go for bike rides and long runs.
“You’d rather be out kicking a ball but you have to keep yourself fit.
“Everyone knows that I want to pull on the black and white and play for Dunfermline, it’s a club very close to my heart.”