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It's not about the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog

Austin McCann is hopeful the experience of winning a two-horse race last season can help Dunfermline Athletic emerge victorious from a completely different dog-fight in the coming weeks.

Steve Lomas expects Dunfermline to be more ambitious than they were at Celtic Park
Steve Lomas expects Dunfermline to be more ambitious than they were at Celtic Park

The Fifers found themselves battling it out last term in a straight fight with Raith Rovers for the first division title and the coveted prize of promotion back to the Clydesdale Bank Premier League. Having proved their mettle by clinching the championship with a week to spare last year, they now face a scrap with fellow strugglers Hibernian for top-flight survival. Some, notably former Easter Road manager Mixu Paatelainen, have questioned the fighting spirit of Pat Fenlon's Hibs side and McCann believes that the team spirit engendered on that rocky road to promotion can aid their bid for survival 12 months on.

"It does looks like a battle between ourselves and Hibs," he said. "Maybe a month or so ago we were trying to pull other teams back into it but they seem to be just keeping their distance. The way it is looking, it's between us and Hibs and, hopefully, it's a two-horse race that we will win.

"We have the character and fight to get through this and we have a lot of experienced players who have been there and done it. We are together as a unit. There are no cliques in the dressing room. I cannot speak for Hibs and the team spirit with them, but they've made a lot of new signings and it might take them a bit of time to get that kind of spirit.

"We need to capitalise on that. We can't just accept the fact that we will be better than them. We have to go out and prove it on the park."

To do so, Dunfermline will have to show more ambition than they did at Celtic Park in midweek. Steve Lomas, the St Johnstone manager, was in the east end of Glasgow to watch that 2-0 defeat, during which Jim McIntyre deployed 10 men behind the ball for most of the game but expects to see a more attacking side when they visit McDiarmid Park today.

Lomas said: "Jim McIntyre was totally right, he couldn't play open football against Celtic especially when goal difference could be important, but I think they will feel that 'St Johnstone are great away from home and not so great at home, so let's get at them'.

"They need to start winning and putting pressure on Hibs. We have to guard against expectation. People might think we just have to turn up and turn Dunfermline over, but it won't happen like that. Jim's players gave everything they could against Celtic and all credit to them. They are all fighting for their manager, they are all together and so we won't underestimate them.

"It will be a tough game, it is approaching the business end of the season and it's all about getting results and if we can keep clean sheets, we have every chance to win games."

St Johnstone are currently in fifth place in the table, behind Hearts only on goal difference and with a game in hand over the Edinburgh side, so still harbour hopes of winning a European place for next season. Pragmatic Lomas, though, is refusing to look too far ahead.

"Our aim is a European place but it is never easy," he added. "Aberdeen and Dundee United are on form and Kilmarnock and St Mirren will play their part so there is a lot to play for. We can only worry about ourselves. This is a huge game for us tomorrow, make no mistake."

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