Dumbarton manager Stevie Aitken has told his players that they are playing for their futures at the club, with not one of his men signed up on contracts yet for next season.

Aitken’s own contract also expires at the end of the current campaign, although talks with the board are ongoing and are unlikely to be affected by the club’s league status.

The same cannot be said for the playing staff though, and Aitken knows that staying in the Championship is key to maintaining his playing budget near its current levels.

If his squad, who dropped into the relegation play-off position with last weekend’s defeat to Dunfermline, want to stay at the club, then they will have to earn it by keeping them in the division.

“I think that players at most clubs, even the full-time ones at our level, know that they are playing for their futures at this time of the season,” Aitken said.

“Obviously that is brought into sharper focus when you are fighting a battle against relegation with three games to go, and I’m sure that is on the players’ minds.

“We can’t allow ourselves to become distracted though by thinking about contracts or next year or whatever else, because if we aren’t in the Championship then offering deals may not be possible anyway.

“We have to focus all of our energies on the next three matches, and make sure that we give everything we have for these three games to try and stay in the division.

“I look around that dressing room and I know that the boys we have, as they have done all season, will give everything for the cause.

“People forget that these boys are competing against teams with much higher budgets and resources. Traditionally, we have seen that part-time sides have dropped out of the division, and it is so difficult to compete over 36 games with full-time clubs.

“The players deserve huge credit for the fact that we are still right in the mix, and I have absolutely no doubts that they will be giving me and this club everything in the next few weeks.”

If Dumbarton can defeat Queen of the South at Palmerston on Saturday, they could even move above Raith Rovers into seventh place.

With the Fifers not playing until next Wednesday, Aitken sees the match as a huge chance to pile the pressure onto their rivals.

“First and foremost, we are just thinking about Queen of the South and getting three important points,” he said.

“But we realise that with Raith not playing, we can crank up the heat on them a little and throw the gauntlet down to them to better our result.

“Hopefully we can do that, and then we will see how they will respond.”