“OUR focus has got to be on ourselves. It’s in our hands. When I came in to the job we were looking to try and get into fourth place. It becomes more difficult the more games that pass by without getting three points. The focus for ourselves is to demand what we got from that first half today.”

That was the sobering message from Dunfermline manager Stevie Crawford after defeat to Ross County last month. While drawing positives from leading the Championship pace-setters at the break, he balanced it with acknowledging the disintegration in their performance and their confidence during the second half which saw them squander their lead – along with any comfortable points cushion they had between themselves and the Championship trapdoor.

It left the Pars seventh, a precarious four points off bottom-placed Falkirk.

Crawford’s three matches in charge before that encounter, his first as a manager, failed to yield any goals and included an embarrassing Scottish Cup exit. It forced the former Scotland international into the transfer market where he managed to unearth a few gems to help reinvigorate a dismal campaign.

Bruce Anderson, the scorer of the only goal in Saturday’s victory over Alloa, despite his youth and diminutive stature, has taken on the mantle of a talismanic figure in attack. Equipped with the tenacity and intelligence to lead the line on his own, the Aberdeen loanee has responded to Crawford building the attack around him – a lone striker with wide men supporting, or as part of a strike duo – with four goals in six matches.

The signs were there on his debut when he gave Ross County’s Callum Semple such a torrid time that the centre-back was withdrawn at half-time.

Another loanee, in the form of Ryan Blair, came in from Swansea and bolstered a previously lightweight midfield, while Ryan Scully – added from Morton mere days before taking his place between the sticks against his former employers – was recruited and has allowed his goal to be breached just twice in seven matches, chalking up six clean sheets.

Their impervious rearguard over the last five matches has aided Dunfermline in taking 15 points from a possible 15, lifting them into the promotion play-off spots, back to where they feel they belong.

It would appear, then, that Crawford’s words after that Ross County match weren’t empty rhetoric, or playing to the gallery. All of a sudden his side are three points behind Ayr United in third, six points behind Dundee United in second. The feeling around the club now is a far cry from the mood which emanated from the East End Park stands after they carelessly squandered a 2-0 lead at home to Alloa at the start of the year.

That result was the end of the road for Allan Johnston after a three-and-a-half year stint as manager. Despite leading the Pars out of League One in 2017 and a respectable fourth-placed finish last season, the legitimate fear of returning to a division they took three years to escape last time proved too real for the board to ignore.

Dunfermline have ambitions of being greeted as heroes as they exit the Championship’s front door, not being huckled out the fire escape and thrown into Scottish football’s alleyway to scrap it out with the nation’s part-time clubs.

Their recent run puts Crawford’s initial aim of promotion back on track, and on this form they’ll take some stopping.

Who will survive in League One?

IT’S shaping up to be some dog fight at the bottom of League One. A few weeks ago it appeared that a bottom four was being cut adrift but each have shown varying degrees of life since.

On Saturday, only one of those four (at the start of play) lost, with a Dumbarton inspired by Don Thomas continuing their remarkable recovery – which saw them pick up a manager and player of the month double – to move up to sixth.

Elsewhere, Stenhousemuir, who looked down and out just a few weeks ago, recorded an impressive 2-0 victory away to the league leaders. Both up against top-four sides, Brechin managed a draw, but Stranraer lost 3-1.

It means that eight points separates the bottom and fifth-placed Montrose – who last month looked to be on course to challenge the sides above them and are now in slight danger of being dragged into it. Moreover, the bottom three sides have a game in hand over everyone above them except East Fife.

It is Stranraer who have shown the most worrying form, with just one victory in their past 10 league matches.

They have two key matches coming up, starting with Brechin at home tonight, followed by a trip to Stenny on Saturday.

Clyde’s points deduction compounded by defeat

WHICH club in world football is most likely to go 16 matches unbeaten, including three victories over the top two sides, and still, in effect, end their title challenge in the process?

Step forward Clyde FC, who seem to have had some sort of hex cast upon them, condemning them to League Two football for the rest of their days.

Subsequent relegations in 2009 and 2010 saw the club drop into the bottom tier, and they were welcomed into their new surroundings by losing 11 of their first 14 games, including being horsed 8-1 by Montrose.

Since then, Jim Duffy, Barry Ferguson and Jim Chapman have all tried and failed to lift Clyde from the bottom division.

The latest man to be passed the poisoned chalice is Danny Lennon, who himself is trying to resurrect his status after dropping down the divisions.

It was all going so well this time. After a stop-start beginning to the campaign, Clyde embarked upon that fantastic run which has been brought crashing to a halt by fielding an ineligible player.

Signed from the fourth tier of US football, Declan Fitzpatrick was subsequently loaned to Clydebank where he impressed as a centre-back. Since returning he put in two uninspiring performances as a forward against Queen’s Park and Albion Rovers – results that have now been overturned, with Clyde being deducted four points.

To shovel grit into a fresh gaping wound, Clyde went on to lose at Elgin over the weekend.