We head for Stark’s Park on Saturday for what will be the fifth and final meeting with Raith Rovers this season.
Of the previous encounters, a Mitch Megginson double got us off to a flier on the opening day of the cinch Championship campaign, Raith were comfortable winners on our last visit to Kirkcaldy and also prevailed, narrowly, in the SPFL Trust trophy, and we snatched a dramatic equaliser in the most recent game, Morgyn Neill earning a 2-2 draw in January.
That was one of five points picked up since Paul Hartley returned to Balmoral Stadium, but given recent performances, the tally really should be higher. The manager was delighted with his team’s showing against Queen’s Park last Friday, and believes if the players can replicate that, we will be in with a strong chance of remaining in the division:
“I thought the boys were excellent, they really played so well, and we were very unlucky not to take something from what was a hard-fought match. We were solid at the back, put together some really good moves and carried a real threat up front. Leighton McIntosh hit the post and the bar, and we lost to a late own goal, but we came away from that with a positive attitude, and that’s what we’re going to need in the coming weeks.”
Winger Luis Longstaff was heavily involved at Ochilview and has enjoyed an impressive first season with Cove Rangers. He fully agrees with his gaffer’s assessment:
“Last week was a sore one for us. It was probably the best we have played under Paul since he returned in January. We created numerous chances, and we were seriously unlucky not to score at least one before we conceded through an unfortunate own goal. Considering they are top of the league, and we are closer to the bottom, the difference between the two sides was next to nothing, and we must look to take the positives from the game.”
There was a major upheaval in the wake of Paul Hartley’s return with ten players going out and ten arriving, and Luis believes we are about to start seeing the benefits of the manager’s restructuring of the squad:
“We made a number of signings in January, and it takes time for everyone to settle in and understand how firstly, the manager wants the team to play, and secondly, how each individual plays. In the last few games, we have definitely looked more like a team, and I feel like everyone is beginning to gel. The results may not have shown that, but if we keep performing the way we have in recent weeks, then I’m sure the results will start to go our way.
“For me personally, I am beginning to understand how the new boys around me like to play. I had a really good connection with Max Johnston whilst he was at the club, we clicked straight away and we understood each other well. In recent weeks, I have had Naisy playing behind me. He has different attributes to what Max had, but I feel like we are now beginning to work well as a pair down the right-hand side.”
“We have played Raith numerous times already this season, and we know how they like to play. We must look to take the positives from last week’s game, and try and pick up all three points. We certainly have the players to do that, so we must go down there with confidence.”
“Our last visit to Stark’s Park wasn’t great. At the time, we were in good form, so it was a real kick in the teeth. It is important, however, that we don’t focus on that too much, as it is in the past, and we must concentrate on getting a result this time around.”
“It is crucial we don’t get ahead of ourselves for the remainder of the campaign. Everyone must be fully focused on the next match to ensure that we get something, and edge closer to safety.”
The manager is well aware of the threat posed by Raith, but he and the team will be making the trip to Kirkcaldy in high spirits:
“They’re a good footballing team, one of the best in the division, but we now have a shape that’s working and morale is high. It will take another performance similar to the one against Queen’s Park, but if we can do that, we’ll be giving ourselves a right good chance.”
Fraser Fyvie and Brody Paterson have both been ruled out for the remainder of the season, and they’ll be joined on the sidelines by Blair Yule, although the midfielder did do some light training this week. Captain Mitch Megginson is back in the squad after his recent hamstring injury.
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