ALLOA manager Paul Hartley is preparing for the biggest period of his short managerial career, but feels no pressure about securing a result against visitors Dunfermline in the first leg of their First Division play-off final.
Hartley said: “This game and then the one on Sunday are great events and the biggest games of my two years as a manager. For me it is case of bring them on. We are in the quite fortunate position of having no pressure on us as Dunfermline, despite all their financial troubles, are favourites to win.
“Alloa are live on TV for the first time ever and we can enjoy that. We can also enjoy playing in front of a big crowd as no-one really expects Alloa to beat Dunfermline. They may have lost players and experience but they are still a full-time club and the young players that have come in have done really well for them. All the pressure to win is on Dunfermline and all I would ask the boys to do is to play like they can.”
Hartley admits that a place in the First Division was not even discussed when he left playing at Aberdeen two years ago to become the manager at Recreation Park. He added: “At that time the club had just been relegated and the chairman and I spoke about getting promoted within my first year. We did that as champions but if I had suggested back-to-back promotions then I think the chairman would have thought I was kidding him on.
“We have a chance now and the players have been magnificent in getting us that chance. If they can play the game and not the occasion I am sure they will be magnificent again, but the main thing is that the players show what they can do.”
The Wasps miss only former Celtic defender Jason Marr who has a hamstring injury.
Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies agrees that the Pars are favourites, as he explained: “Paul is right in that when people look at this tie they will expect Dunfermline as the bigger club to win it. It will, however, not be that easy as we are facing a side that ran really good champions of their division, Queen of the South, close in all their games.”
Jefferies is delighted that his men go into the game with a bit of belief, saying: “We let ourselves down at Forfar in the first leg last week, but on Saturday we came back from 4-1 down and having missed a penalty. To do that by scoring six goals has given everyone a lift and belief that we can stay in the First Division. That win has shown everyone that we have a strong mentality here.”
The 62-year-old still bristles at the position Dunfermline are in, saying: “I will say it again that the 15-point penalty for administration was harsh on our players. We have a belief that we can overcome it, but we face two really tough games against a good Alloa side. They were more consistent in the Second Division than Forfar and finished some 15 points ahead of them. That points to a much tougher task.”
Dunfermline will miss Callum Morris who has a hamstring problem and Ryan Wallace with a shoulder injury. However, Jefferies is confident that Chris Kane will shake off the ankle injury he picked up in training.