Stevie Crawford has been caught in the rain, sleet and hailstones more times than he cares to remember this week.

Thursday's training session at Alloa was particularly grim. “It was soaking wet and freezing cold. Heavy rain,” he reports in the manner of a discombobulated John Kettley.

But it is the sunnier uplands of the SPFL Premiership that the Dunfermline Athletic manager will turn his attention to this afternoon when he takes his side to Raith Rovers for their Premiership play-off quarter-final, second leg tie. The teams drew 0-0 in the first leg at East End Park on Tuesday night and the 47-year-old admits there is a fag paper separating them.

That game was the fourth time the pair have met this season, and a closer analysis of the head-to-head tells you that there has been a one-sided win apiece and two draws. The club that prevails today will next face Dundee over two legs for the right to battle one of Ross County, Hamilton Academical or Kilmarnock for a place in the top flight.

If he manages that task, Crawford will have done so against the odds. History does not favour promotion for teams trying to escape the Championship via the play-offs with just two sides prevailing since the format's inception in 2013-14. Meanwhile, a quick surf of Dunfermline fans forums tells you that supporters have been disgruntled by their team's form in the latter half of the season.

In a division where Hearts fans have called for manager Robbie Neilson's head despite winning the title at a canter, it is hardly a surprise that his one-time assistant has found himself the target for criticism but Crawford – appointed in January 2019 – says he has fulfilled the remit given to him by chairman Ross McArthur and the club's German investors DAFC Fussball GmbH.

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“I think since coming into the job the objective was to work first of all with younger players and give players opportunities in the hope that it would take the club forward and I very much feel that that's been the case," he explained.

"A lot was said last year about the Covid situation and bringing the league to a premature end. We'll never know what last season was going to bring but this year the objective was to get into the play-offs and now that we are there we want to enjoy and embrace them and try to progress.

"In terms of pressure, there is going to be a pressure in being a Dunfermline player anyway but [with regard to] pressures from outwith, if you're meaning financially, where the club is on that, the club is in a really strong place.

“There is investment from the German investors throughout the season, we've been very clever and astute. It's money that is invested [on] infrastructure rather than throwing it into a playing budget. On that side of things, the progression is the club getting to the play-offs. But we can't just be happy with making the play-offs, we're trying to get out of them.

"Like anything, they are businessmen, so they want to progress has high as we can. I speak to Thomas [Meggle] and his support on that side has been great but it's not like a weekly discussion that I have – and I've got their full support.”

Look at the squad of players Crawford has fielded this season and there is a decidedly cherubic sheen to it. Josh Edwards, the 20-year-old left-back signed from Airdrieonians in 2019, has been a virtual ever-present this season. Another 20-year-old, Kerr McInroy, has played 20 times while 19-year-old attacker Lewis McCann, brother of St Johnstone's Ali, has made 11 appearances.

In all, nine players under the age of 23 have reached double figures in appearances for the season and that has almost inevitably brought a degree of inconsistency across the campaign. Crawford is well aware that it is a balancing act.

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“Young players can handle Scottish Championship football, I know they can," he insisted. "They are going to have their dips. We've found that this season, we've found it in previous seasons, there are ups and downs, they've got to be able to handle that.

"I find it exciting but I'm also fully aware that is not just about working with a young group, and giving them experience as you go along, you've also got to get the results that get you to places. I'm definitely not using [the promotion of young players] as an excuse [for not getting to the top flight]. That's not fair on the supporters.”

If Dunfermline are to take the next step back to a division they have not inhabited since 2011 they will need to do something they have managed just once in the league all season: win away from home.

More tellingly, their last visit to Stark's Park on March 30 ended in a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of today's opponents. But they dominated on Tuesday night and should have won; unsurprisingly Crawford says the conditions are different this time around.

“The 5-1 will always be on my CV but I've spoken about that after the game and it is done. Likewise, we won 4-1 against them at East End playing a similar way and I didn't want to use that as motivation in the home tie because it is going to be a totally different set of circumstances.

"The league encounters that we have had against Raith Rovers won't have a bearing. There's very little between the sides.”