Dunfermline winger Joe Cardle is adamant the Pars have the weapons to push for promotion this season, but admits next weekend’s clash at Hibs will be a real test.
In front of nearly 3,500 fans on Saturday, Cardle grabbed a hat-trick and the match ball as the League One champions got off to a winning start on their return to the Championship for the first time in three years after seeing off Dumbarton 4-3.
The victory was more convincing than the score line suggests after the Fife outfit dominated for long spells before conceding two injury-time penalties.
Under manager Allan Johnston, the Fife club are aiming high once more but experienced playmaker Cardle admits they are keen to measure themselves against Neil Lennon’s title favourites.
Cardle said: “Going to Hibs away, we know it’s going to a tough game.
“It’s going to be a test for us, it will show us where we are but we’re looking forward to it.
“We’ve got a strong team here. We’ll relish this result and try and push on and you never know what can happen.
“The fans turned up in their numbers, I know it’s the first game of the season and we we don’t want to get carried away but hopefully we’ve got a good chance this season.
“If we play the way we can do and don’t make mistakes then we’ll be up their challenging and that’s what we aim to do.”
Cardle’s two penalty box finishes in the first half cancelled out Robert Thomson’s 18th minute opener for the Sons and the 29-year-old added his third in the 67th minute with a composed strike.
David Hopkirk climbed off the bench to add a fourth in the 41st minute before fellow substitute Mark Docherty converted two stoppage time penalties; Michael Paton and Lee Ashcroft, who was sent off for pulling down Thomson, were the sinners.
Cardle admits Dumbarton’s late rally took the shine of Dunfermline’s opening day win.
He added: “That was my fourth hat-trick for Dunfermline but I’m just delighted to get the three points.
“It was a bit of a strange ending after dominating most of the game, it put a bit of a dampener on the day. I would have been happy enough with one goal but to get three, I’m over the moon.”