ATHLETIC forward Craig Wighton has joined Championship rivals Arbroath on loan for the rest of the season.

The 24-year-old, who joined Dunfermline permanently on a two-year contract in the summer after spending the second half of last season on loan from Heart of Midlothian, will go into the Championship leaders' squad for their game at Raith Rovers tomorrow.

Dick Campbell's side lost the services of Joel Nouble and Anton Dowds, who returned to parent clubs Livingston and Falkirk, earlier in the January transfer window after they were recalled from loan spells. 

They have, however, moved quickly to add Wighton - who previously enjoyed a spell at Gayfield - having been linked with him earlier in the week.

Speaking to the Press on Tuesday, Athletic boss, John Hughes, confirmed Arbroath's interest, stating: "There’s a few clubs in for Craig to tell you the truth. I’ll not mention other ones, I think that’s unfair, but Arbroath’s certainly one of them. I think he had a good time there before (on loan in 2020).

“Everybody wants to play and I totally understand that. No matter what player it is, we’ve had that strategy meeting where we feel there will be one or two we don’t want to lose, like Gašpuitis, but if it’s good business for the club, then we’ll do the business.

“Right at this moment in time, I don’t know where we are or where Wiggy is with Arbroath. Maybe come Saturday I could tell you a bit more.”

Wighton initially agreed a pre-contract in February to join joined Dunfermline in the summer on a two-year deal, but then subsequently signed on loan from Hearts for the remainder of the 2020/21 campaign.

He made 13 appearances, scoring six goals, as Stevie Crawford's team reached the Premiership play-offs, where they were beaten by Raith Rovers in the quarter-finals.

Following Crawford's resignation, and the arrival of Peter Grant as his replacement, Wighton played in all four of Dunfermline's Premier Sports Cup group stages matches - scoring in a 5-1 win over Dumbarton, and a double in a 4-1 success over Stenhousemuir - and started in the opening Championship game of the campaign at Morton.

He has played 19 times this season, but has yet to score in the league, although he notched in last month's abandoned match at Kilmarnock, with the score at 1-1.

Since Hughes took over, he has started just twice - one of which was in that game at Rugby Park - and has made only one other appearance from the bench.

He's made 11 starts in total this season but he now returns to Gayfield for a second loan spell, having moved there in January 2020, only for the move to be cut short after three months when the season was curtailed due to COVID-19.

Welcoming him back to the club, Arbroath said on their website: "Arbroath today have completed the loan signing of striker Craig Wighton from Dunfermline Athletic until the end of the season.

"We would like to thank John Hughes and everyone at Dunfermline Athletic for allowing Craig to make the move to Gayfield.

"Arbroath supporters will have fond memories of Craig from his last loan at Gayfield which sadly was cut short by the Covid Pandemic.

"Craig had joined Arbroath on loan from Heart of Midlothian and scored the winning goal on his home debut against Partick Thistle before scoring the winning goal at Tannadice just days later in a memorable result for Arbroath.

"Another goal came against Greenock Morton which looked like we were on for another win until a cruel 95th minute equaliser, but with 3 goals in 5 games Craig showed his quality and skill and led the line brilliantly.

"We are extremely excited for Craig to get back scoring goals for Arbroath and knowing many of the players and Management team we will give Craig and his family a warm welcome back to Gayfield.

"Craig will go straight into the squad for tomorrow’s match."