ATHLETIC are heading into 2021 in a “promising” position and Stevie Crawford has vowed they will work even harder to stay there.

At the end of one of the most extraordinary 12-month periods in the history of Scottish football, his team signed off for 2020 with a hard-fought draw at Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Tuesday night to keep them second in the Championship table.

Although Kyle Turner’s first goal of the shortened season was cancelled out by Miles Storey, the Pars remain undefeated on the road and three points clear of third-top Dundee, with derby rivals Raith Rovers a further point adrift.

The Kirkcaldy side will be first foots at East End on Saturday as Crawford’s team look to put further daylight between themselves and the Championship’s fellow play-off chasers, while seeking to stay in touch with leaders Hearts.

Robbie Neilson’s side have opened up a five-point cushion – with a game in hand – at the summit but, with securing a top-four berth the stated aim at the beginning of the campaign, Crawford is satisfied with where his team are, 10 matches in.

Speaking to Press Sport on Wednesday, after their match at Inverness, the Pars head coach said: “We’re working very hard, from the chairman down, to try and take this club forward, develop it, and give players an opportunity to develop.

“Sometimes, there’s inconsistencies within that, but the pleasing thing is that we’re at the right end of the table, and up there challenging where we want to be.

“It’s not getting carried away – there’s a lot of hard work and consistency we’ve got to try and find over the course of a season – but, as I say, it’s promising. We seem to be taking baby steps forward and players are getting games under their belt that will hold them well for the future.

“I thought on Tuesday night, probably so in the first half where we were the better side I felt, we scored a goal and we could’ve been a few goals ahead. In all fairness to Inverness, Robbo’s (John Robertson, manager) tweaked a couple of things and they had a decent spell in the second half where, unfortunately, we lost a goal.

“We tried to make positive substitutions to go and try and win the game. It was an exciting game and one that we created a number of chances in at what is a hard place to go. To come away with a point isn’t any disgrace and something we can build on.

“The pleasing thing as well is that we changed it up. We know that we’ve got a heavy schedule and boys that have had limited game time came in and showed what it meant to them. It’s great when you see the attitude, the hunger and desire from boys that maybe haven’t had a lot of game time. It goes back to the way they’ve been training, and them as characters.

“I’m like a stuck record with this one but it’s about the team – it’s not about individuals. It’s something where, if we’re going to get any success, we need to have that mentality and we proved that again on Tuesday.”

Dunfermline have a midweek trip to Hearts, sandwiched between Scottish Cup and league meetings with Morton, to come after the Raith match in what is an unrelenting schedule.

His first focus, though, is on derby day, and Crawford, who has Fraser Murray available again after injury, continued: “The Christmas schedule is always a difficult one but every team’s facing the same problems as well in regards to that.

“I think what we’ve got to do is be wary of what Raith Rovers’ strengths are but, I’ve said it throughout the season, we have to concentrate on what we’re good at as well and try and maximise what we can do.

“A Fife derby’s a great game to be involved in and one that we’re very much looking forward to.”