ALLAN JOHNSTON has started to shape his squad for next season but has missed out on an early transfer target.

The Pars boss revealed to Press Sport this week that he tried to bring in the player – who he would not name – for next season but had lost out to another club.

That might have been Hibernian striker James Keatings, who signed a pre-contract agreement with Dundee United on Monday, but speculation has also linked Athletic with his Easter Road team-mate, Brian Graham.

Despite not securing a new signing – for now – Johnston has secured influential duo Lee Ashcroft and Nat Wedderburn on new one-year contracts but has told Ben Richards-Everton, Lewis Spence and youngsters Euan Spark, Robbie Crawford, Reece Duncan, Evan Horne and Johnny Galloway that their deals will not be renewed.

In a lengthy statement, chairman Ross McArthur said that it was the manager’s “intention to operate with a slightly smaller first-team squad” but they would “do everything in our power to retain, and attract, the best possible players at our disposal and offer them the best possible contract terms we can”.

Speaking about those who will leave East End, Johnston commented: “It’s never nice at this time of year but you’ve got to make decisions that’s in the best interests of the club, and the best interests of the player, so sometimes it’s got to be done. It’s difficult but sometimes you’ve got to take a step back in your career, come back stronger and progress, so hopefully they can do that.

“They’ve done well for the club and are good young players but we’re trying to progress as well. Sometimes you need to freshen the squad so decisions have to be made but we wish them all the best because their attitude was first class.

“We are speaking to players; players from other clubs and those who are still here. It’s ongoing and hopefully we can start to get some other players signed up but it takes a bit of time unfortunately. You just never know though. It’s amazing sometimes when you think ‘that’s not going to happen’ and then it does the next day, sometimes it takes a lot longer, or you don’t get the players you’re after. We’ll just have to wait and see how it transpires.

“I think I’ve said numerous times that we’ve got a lot of good players and, if we can just add something that can maybe just give us that extra edge, then hopefully we can improve on what we’ve done this year.”

Johnston, who was delighted to see his side end their campaign with victory at Queen of the South on Saturday, has been heartened by players expressing their desire to stay with Dunfermline.

Michael Paton was the latest to do so after the game at Palmerston, commenting that he hoped for “good news rather than bad news next week”, and the manager continued: “It’s great. I think they know this is a club going in the right direction and that we have a right chance next year of being successful. I think that’s why the majority of the boys will want to be here.

“It’s been a good season and thankfully we finished with a win. Obviously you set your targets higher, which is the natural thing to do, but we’ve got to keep progressing as a club and make sure we improve on that every year.”

He added that the squad will return for pre-season training on June 15.