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John Hughes ‘alarmed’ by collapse as Dunfermline boss says Pars ‘don’t deserve to be in Championship’ if they can’t handle playoff heat

Honest assessment: Hughes
Honest assessment: Hughes

John Hughes admits to being ‘alarmed’ by Dunfermline’s last-day collapse and insists they will not deserve to avoid relegation if they cannot cope with the pressure of their playoff battle.

Hughes is convinced the Pars have what it takes to see off Queen’s Park in their two-legged semi-final before a final meeting with either Airdrie or Montrose.

But, having previously been left devastated by a playoff loss to Brechin City — which sent Raith Rovers crashing into League 1 in 2017 — the East End Park boss is fully aware Dunfermline’s Championship status now rests on a knife edge.

The Fifers dreamed of escaping the clutches of the playoffs with Friday night’s visit of already-doomed Queen of the South.

But with Ayr United’s victory over Partick Thistle consigning Dunfermline to ninth spot, they instead went out with a whimper after throwing away an early lead to lose 2-1.

Josh Edwards opened the scoring against Queen of the South

Hughes said: “The second-half performance was a little bit alarming. I’m not shying away from that.

“We’ve all been there, we’ve all got butterflies, but it cannot in any way, shape or form have any kind of influence on your performance.

You need to use all your mental tools to make sure you’re ready to go.

“Two or three months ago we were bottom of the league. Now we’re still in the league, fighting in the play-offs. We’ve given ourselves a chance, we’ve got that, so go and grab it.

“You don’t need any more motivation. If motivation’s not there, in terms of this great club and Dunfermline and the size of the club and to keep it in the league, I don’t think you should be a professional footballer. That alone is enough.

You need to stand up to it. If not then we don’t deserve to be in the league.”

Hurdle

While Dunfermline have enjoyed just three victories from their last 13 matches, Queen’s Park have been used to winning this season on their way to fourth place in League One.

Firhill, pictured on March 19

The Spiders have lost only four times in their 18 games in 2022, despite having to endure difficult pitch conditions during their ground-share with Partick Thistle, who will play on Firhill just 24 hours before the Fifers get there.

Hughes, who is mulling over a start for the fit-again Graham Dorrans, has warned they represent a significant first hurdle for the Pars.

He added: “We’re under no illusion how difficult it’s going to be. We’ve had Queen’s Park watched a few times.

“They’ve got some right good players in there and they’re well organised, and they play with a good energy – so we’ll have to stand up to that.”

He added: “Can I take any [play-off] experience and pass anything on? No, you just need to stick together.”

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