AUSTIN McCANN insisted today that the Dunfermline players will relish the pressure-pot atmosphere at Easter Road on Monday night – and claimed that Hibs will be the ones feeling the heat.
The Pars travel to face Hibs at the beginning of the week in a televised clash that will play a pivotal role in deciding who takes the drop to the First Division.
Jim Jefferies’ men, who are five points adrift at the foot of the table, are favourites to be relegated and anything aside of a defeat for Hibs would indeed ensure their absence from the SPL next season.
McCann knows his side are up against it but is still hoping to take the battle to the very last day of the season by recording a victory in Edinburgh.
He said: “There is a lot of pressure on – both on the club and each of the players individually. But this is what football is all about. We put ourselves into this situation last year by winning promotion, we wanted to play on the big stage in the high-pressure games and this is certainly one of them.
“I think that we have to take a bit of credit for taking Hibs all the way because, when the post-split fixtures came out, a lot of people thought it would be over and done with by now.
“We just wanted to get to this match and go into it still with a real chance and we have done that. We always knew we would have to beat them, so nothing has changed on that front and we go into the game on the back of a few good results.
“We are unbeaten in our last couple of games and we want to win on Monday night to make sure that we take it all the way to the last game of the season.”
Easter Road could see one of its biggest crowds of the season, particularly after the club decided to slash gate prices for the game. But McCann believes that a fired-up home crowd will only serve to ensure that the Dunfermline players are also on top of their game, adding: “We know that there will be a big crowd and a good atmosphere and hopefully that will bring an extra couple of per cent out of the boys.
“Hibs are at home and I think that will probably put a bit more pressure on them, being in front of their own fans.
“It’ll be an interesting game, that’s for sure.”
James McPake is a doubt for Hibs with an ankle injury that he picked up against St Mirren, the defender missing from the side which travelled to Pittodrie on Wednesday night.
McCann knows the former Livingston man welland he admitted that it would be a huge boost for the visitors if McPake were posted missing from Pat Fenlon’s line-up. “I know James quite well,” McCann continued. “I did my B Licence with him and he is a good guy. I think that he has been a massive signing for Hibs, and a few teams were after him in January.
“He has shown already what a big player he can be for them so obviously it would be a bit of a bonus for us if he didn’t make it on Monday night.
“But all we can do is look after ourselves and the job we’ve got to do. It doesn’t really matter who plays or doesn’t play for them.”
While McCann and Co continue to look to the positives, he conceded that he would be distraught if his side were playing First Division football next season.
He added: “I would be really gutted. I came to Dunfermline four years ago and saw it as a great challenge.
“I knew they were having a tough time financially and it took us time to get into the Premier League.
“I was so proud to get there last year and obviously that’s where I want us to stay.
“I would be disappointed if we went back down at the first opportunity. I am desperate to keep them in this league, so I will do my best to get the right result on Monday night and hopefully go on to make sure that doesn’t happen.”#