MARK RIDGERS fears new Covid-19 restrictions hammering Championship attendances could be influential in the title race.

The experienced goalkeeper made the admission as he urged Caley Thistle team-mates to stay focused on the end prize amid a return to near-empty stadiums and concerns over the club’s own recent outbreak of the virus.

The Boxing Day clash between Caley Jags and Partick thistle was postponed after boss Billy Dodds was left with just eight fit players not injured or in self-isolation.

A number of negative tests since mean that Caley Thistle should be able to field a team with substitutes for today’s vital clash with second bottom Dunfermline.

Ridgers stressed: “We’ve had our issues, which have been well documented, but we’re ready for the game - we have to be.

“It’s the way of the world at the moment and we have seen other teams be affected by it.

“The biggest disappointment is the lack of fans. That is going to be a big loss for a lot of teams.

“We have been here before and we know what to expect. We’re not going into the unknown, which is the only promising aspect.

“We’re as ready as we can be and we’ll have to deal with whatever comes in the next few weeks as it’s not going away any time soon.

“You can’t really block it out. Previously, it took a good few games to get used to empty grounds. It then took time to get used to fans being back in again and having that atmosphere.

“That has been taken away again.

“I would hope it wouldn’t impact the title race, but I think it will.

“Some teams thrive on having fans and some prefer it without fans as there is less pressure on them, especially the teams who need results.

“Having that backing we have had this season from the fans has been great. We will miss having them pushing us on.

“Fingers crossed it’s not too long before it is back to normal.”

The call for extra focus and resolve from caley thistle comes with the team three points behind shock leaders Arbroath as they head to an empty east End Park.

Dunfermline have opted against admitting the allowed 500 supporters because of costs such as stewarding.

Rodgers said: “No matter what is going on, we have to remain focused and try to win as many games as we can. We will see where we are at come the end of April.

“Fixtures come thick and fast at this time of year, so we need to pick up as many points as we can, like we did in the first part of the season.

“If we can do that, or even better it, then come April hopefully we’re at the right end of the table.

“Some clubs have decided not to have any fans inside their grounds, but we have to continue doing what we’ve been doing for the first half of the season and pick as many points as we can.

“I think it will be worse this time around because we’ve had that sensation of welcoming the fans back after so long.

“I prefer having the fans in the ground creating an atmosphere. You get a wee buzz before the game.

“Previously, it was just about getting back to playing the games and that gave us some kind of boost in itself.

“This time, we continue to play but it is disappointing that it has come to this again, although people’s health and safety throughout the whole pandemic is the priority.”

Rodgers acknowledged caley Thistle’s remaining festive matches could be crucial in shaping the health of their title tilt.

He added: “We take the season in stages and in the next three or four games we need to try and get maximum points and see where we are.

“We are coming to the nitty gritty part of the season and teams will start pulling away or falling away.

“If you look at the table it is a strange scenario with five teams at the top and five at the bottom.

“But a team in the lower half can go on a run and be challenging.

“We have to make sure we pick up the points and we are still fighting for the title come the end of this block of games.

“If we want to be promoted and go up to the next level we have to step up when it matters. We are at that stage now.

“We need to rebuild our consistency and put a run together like we did at the start of the season and that will help us.”