BOSS HAS GREATER OPTIONS

Gary Locke (picture by Fife Photo Agency)
Gary Locke (picture by Fife Photo Agency)

Rovers’ boss Gary Locke hailed the international break as a great thing for his squad in terms of boosting his selection choices.

A number of players have shaken off injury problems and are right in contention for a place in Saturday’s squad for the hugely attractive home fixture against Hibernian.

Everyone at Stark’s Park is looking forward to the visit of the probable favourites for the league title, with many players keen to get back to action after the disappointing solitary goal defeat by Morton last time out.

But the increased options available should boost Raith’s confidence for what they know will be a tough game.

“Over the last couple of months, we have certainly not had our injury problems to seek,” said Locke. “They have not cleared up totally but there are a few players who’ve had a couple of weeks’ training – some of them have had reserve games and minutes on the pitch, so it’s a lot better obviously for the health of the squad.”

Chris Johnston is fully fit and up for consideration again after a struggle with injury, while Lewis Vaughan is back after illness.

“We’ve not been able to fill the bench for the last four or five games but we’ll certainly do that this weekend, and that’s great for the squad,” added Locke.

“I’ve said all along if we keep everybody fit, then we have a really good competitive squad, but if we do have seven or eight injuries, it’s certainly going to be difficult for us.

“A couple of weeks ago it was eight or nine; now it’s just maybe four or five.”

There was unfortunately a big doubt for Saturday over Liam Smith, who pulled a hamstring against Morton, while still definitely out are Craig Barr, Scott Robertson and Jason Thomson.

With a win and a loss in the last two games, the Kirkcaldy side needed to find a bit of consistency, said Locke.

The league was very close, with each team capable of beating the others, and no one so far had gone on an impressive extended run.

“I have been relatively pleased with how we are playing and you can see how tight the league is,” he said.

“We are playing the favourites for the league, I would say. Probably the club outwith Dundee United with the biggest resources and the biggest fan base, so it will be a tough game – but one we’ll certainly look forward to.”

While Hibs’ recent results hadn’t been particularly good, Locke said they had quality right through their side, although Raith obviously hoped to play to their potential too.

“It’s a cracking game – hopefully there will be a big crowd there, with two good teams, and hopefully we can come out on top,” he added. “As a player, you want to play in these games; you’re playing the team most people fancy to win the league.

“For me, most of the pressure is on Hibs – but we put ourselves under pressure too because we want to win every game as well.

“It’s a great game to look forward to and, as manager of Raith, I just want to make sure we put on a good performance for our supporters. They have been great so far – the backing they have given the team has been excellent – and we’re just looking for more of the same at the weekend.”