DUNFERMLINE have been dealt a huge blow after it emerged former Rangers striker Nicky Clark could need an ankle operation that would keep him out of the start of the Championship campaign.
The 26-year-old has been troubled by the injury since last season and with the pain returning in recent weeks was sent to see a specialist on Thursday.
Manager Allan Johnston has confessed the ex-Queen of the South marksman may require surgery and does not want to delay any procedure so he misses as few league games as possible.
He said: “Nicky Clark was away seeing a specialist today [Thursday] and if he needs anything done then we’re just going to get it done.
“We want him back for the league campaign as soon as possible.
“He’s had a wee niggle in his ankle over the last couple of weeks, and he had a touch of it last season as well.
“We’ll just have to wait and see how he is, and see what the specialist says.”
The news is a major setback on the eve of Dunfermline’s trip to face Hearts at Tynecastle in the teams’ Betfred Cup Group B decider.
The Pars currently top the division on eight points after two thumping home wins over Elgin City and Peterhead, and a penalty-kicks bonus point against East Fife.
A draw would be enough to clinch first place and qualification for the knock-out stages and the home side are under pressure following their shock defeat to Peterhead on Tuesday night.
Johnston is relishing the test of returning to the club where he started his playing career and is hoping his side can heap further disappointment on the men in maroon.
He added: “It’s got the makings of a really good game.
“Hearts need to go for it, they need to get the win, and hopefully we can put on a really good performance and get what we need as well.
“I was surprised with Hearts’ result in midweek but we know Peterhead well and it’s a hard place to go to.
“It’s going to be hard. We’re going to Tynecastle and I’m sure they’ll come out desperate to make amends for their result in midweek.
“We’ve got to make sure we keep the crowd quiet and get them on their backs by passing the ball well and getting at them as well and causing them problems.
“It’s a great one to test yourself in, because Tynecastle is a great place to go and play.
“I had a lot of good times there as a player, there’s a great atmosphere with the stands on top of you, and the main stand is going to be amazing when it’s finished.
“We’ve got to make sure we put a bit of pressure on them because results haven’t gone their way.”