Dunfermline manager Stevie Crawford insists a play-off place should be the bare minimum for the Pars in this season’s Championship.
The Fife outfit head into tomorrow’s league opener at home to Inverness brimming with confidence following three-straight wins in their Betfred Cup group campaign, the latest coming on Tuesday at Kilmarnock.
Dunfermline finished last season’s curtailed second tier in sixth place, and have only reached the play-offs once – in 2018 – since winning promotion from League One over four years ago.
Hearts are the firm favourites to clinch the title but Crawford, who has recruited the likes of Steven Whittaker, Declan McManus, Kevin O’Hara and Fraser Murray, has made it clear that he expects a top four finish from his players.
He said: “Hearts coming down will be a talking point against any club that comes up against them this season.
“But we can’t solely focus on Hearts, if we do that we’ll take our eye off the ball.
“What I will say, for a club like ourselves now, I’m 20 months into the journey as a manager now, and with the players we’ve signed in the summer we’re looking to the play-offs minimum this season.
“It probably attracted a few of the players to come as well, it was certainly one of the reasons the likes of Declan McManus wanted to come back.
“It’s not setting ourselves unrealistic targets but if we can stay together and focus on taking it game at a time, I think we’ll do well this season.”
In a shortened 27-game campaign, Crawford appreciates the importance of getting off to a good start and he is hoping the team can transfer their Betfred Cup form into the league following wins over Killie, Falkirk and Dumbarton.
He added: “We’re not conceding goals and scored six in the last three games so it’s pleasing.
“But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. It breeds confidence and the pleasing thing for us and myself is that although we added a number of players, the foundation was there to build on.
“If we can get off to a good start then the confidence will play a big factor in how the season is going to pan out.
“Every game has different problems, different strengths in teams that you have to adapt to.
“With the players we’ve got I think there is room to manoeuvre, ask players to play different positions and play a different type of football at times.”
Crawford is also hoping Murray can maintain his form after the on loan Hibs forward notched a brace, including a stunning free-kick from 30 yards, in the 3-0 win against a depleted Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
He added: “I don’t want to say Fraser has taken a backwards step because that’s unfair to the level we play at and the size of club we are.
“Hibs are a team playing in the Premiership but Fraser has come in hungry to do well.
“He has a belief in his ability and he’s fought extremely hard to get the game time he has already.
“He knows it’s not a shoo-in that he is guaranteed to start games, he hasn’t started every game but he’s conducted himself in the right manner and that will give himself the chance to have a successful loan spell here.
“The one thing I think we can help him with is adding goals to his game.
“If that means him going back to Hibs in the summer and giving himself a chance there then great.”