DUNFERMLINE have been dealt an injury blow after Joe Cardle was ruled out for “a number of weeks”.

Boss Allan Johnston confirmed that the high-flying winger is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines after being forced off with a hamstring problem in the early stages of Saturday’s win over St Mirren.

Top scorer Cardle, who has hit nine goals already this season, pulled up within the opening 15 minutes as the Pars surged back to the Championship summit and could now be out for up to six weeks.

It took the shine off an otherwise superb afternoon for Athletic, and Johnston told Press Sport: “It looks as if Joe’s going to be out for a number of weeks.

“It was his hamstring and it was a really awkward one; the boy’s kinda pushed him a wee bit and it’s twisted as his foot’s landed.

“I’ve done my hamstring before and there’s no quick way back. You’ve just got to take your time, make sure you get it right and that when you come back you’re 100 per cent.

“He’s been a massive player for us since the start of the season. He’s scored so many goals and been in top form but he’ll be back in that form again.

“He’s going to be a big loss but it’s an opportunity for others to step in and prove that they should be playing.

“That’s why you’ve got a squad of players and I think we’ve got competition everywhere.”

David Hopkirk was the man Johnston turned to to fill the void left by Cardle and it was a move that paid dividends, with the substitute’s cracker handing Dunfermline a two-goal advantage as they blew the then table-topping Buddies away.

It was a seventh successive home win in all competitions – Athletic’s best run since 1994 – and Johnston was thrilled with his team’s display.

He continued: “I think the pleasing thing for me is that we’ve played the top teams and we’re getting results. Last year, it was probably our Achilles heel a wee bit.

“We’re scoring goals and defending well but the league’s still really tight. There’s not much between all the teams but we’ve started well and we’ve just got to make sure we don’t get slack and continue that.

“We’ve got good competition for places. Hoppy was outstanding; he’s been waiting patiently for his chance and then you’ve got other guys like Andy Ryan, Fraser Aird, Scott Lochhead and Callum Smith.

“We’ve got a lot of options that we can freshen the squad up with.”