IT'S been just over a fortnight since they last played and Steven Whittaker says Dunfermline are raring to go at Cappielow this evening.

But the experienced 36-year-old insists that they will have to be at the top of their game to avenge their only defeat of the season against Greenock Morton in front of the television cameras.

Since their 1-1 draw at Inverness Caledonian Thistle on December 29, Stevie Crawford's side have seen a New Year derby with Raith Rovers and a Scottish Cup tie - ironically, against this evening's opposition - both called off due to frozen pitches.

The latter had been due to take place last Saturday, and was rearranged for Tuesday evening, which saw Dunfermline's scheduled trip to Championship leaders Hearts cancelled.

However, an SFA announcement on Monday that all fixtures beneath the second tier, as well as those in the cup, were to be suspended for three weeks saw that clash fall by the wayside as well.

It means that Athletic head for Cappielow five points adrift of the pacesetters from the capital in second place, and the same number clear of the fifth-placed 'Ton.

The battle for promotion places is hotting up and, even though Whittaker, who joined as a player/coach in the summer from Hibernian, readily admits it's not a normal campaign, he says that the Pars squad are focused on the job at hand.

The Championship was given the OK to continue on the provision the clubs carry out weekly testing and, speaking to Press Sport this week, the former Scotland star said: "It's constantly changing up ahead of us, and we're adapting the best we can, but it's more difficult than normal for sure.

"It's a challenge, but it's either that or we don't play. We all know we've got a responsibility to adhere to these protocols that have been put in place because they're there for a reason. We're fully aware that it's not normal, but these rules and conditions that have been put in are things that we must get on with and do to the best we can.

"We're doing it right and it's the only way forward is to do it right. Hopefully it can continue and get the season continued and finished.

"We've had a strong start. We've played well in games, and have had spells where we've not been great or at our best, but we've dug in there or we've came from behind a couple of times to get something out of the game.

"We're on a good spell but it's something we're still looking to improve on. We still feel like we can get better, but it's been a great start and we're sitting round about where we want to be. We want to keep building on that and pushing forward. We're back in the league on Friday night, on the telly, so it's another good one to prepare for.

"We'll tick all the boxes and prepare for that match. We're looking forward to it because I think the 29th, the Inverness game, was our last game. We're all ready for another match and to get back on with it.

"We were disappointed to come away with not winning the match; that kinda shows you how well we played. It's a hard place to go so to come away disappointed with a point shows how far we've come and what we're capable of.

"We're on a good run, the boys are all in a good place, so we're just looking to continue it and see how we go."
When asked whether the enforced break could be a positive in terms of ensuring the players are refreshed, Whittaker replied: "We just have to keep adapting to it, regardless of loads of games or not, we just have to put ourselves in our best position.

"The training load will differ depending on matches; we've managed to up a bit of the training load over the last 10 days or so, which has been good for the guys that maybe haven't had so many minutes, they get a bit more in the training week so it's constantly adapting to the situation.

"Our only defeat of the season was to them (Morton). We were disappointed with that result; the performance wasn't that bad, we actually had a lot of possession and pressure in that match, but Morton were a threat on the counter and they really made it hard for us to break them down.

"They're really compact and got men behind the ball, which meant less space for us to work in, and we really found it hard to create clear-cut opportunities against them.

"The little breaks didn't quite go our way that day as well, but we're fully aware that it's going to be another tough game, especially away at their home stadium. We know we'll have to stick to the gameplan and all be on our games to go there and get a result that we all want.

"I think they're only four points off us so both teams will be looking at it as an opportunity - from our point of view, to stretch the gap, but they'll be looking to close the gap and try to get within touching distance of us.

"We're fully aware of what's at stake and how tough the game will be. I think they've been on a really good run since the change of manager so we're fully aware it'll be a tough game, and we need to fully focused for the 90 minutes to get a result."

Tonight's match, which kicks off at 7.45pm, is live on the BBC Scotland channel.