Board release extra funds as Raith look to build on best start in Scotland

Raith manager Barry Smith -  credit- Fife Photo Agency
Raith manager Barry Smith - credit- Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers manager Barry Smith has thanked the board for their backing after they changed their stance and gave him the green light to sign another defender.

After initially telling the manager no funds would be made available, the board has now sanctioned a move to bring in cover for injured duo Kyle Benedictus and Kevin McHattie.

Smith is now scouring the loan market for a suitable defender who can help the Kirkcaldy club maintain their unbeaten start to the League One campaign.

“The board have been very good and after some consultation they’ve allowed me to bring in another player, which I’m grateful for,” Smith said. “I think they understand the situation and that we are short in defence.

“So all credit to them for allowing me the opportunity to bring someone in, but it’s got to be the right person.”

Smith confirmed that he has ‘irons in the fire’ but former Livingston and Hamilton defender Jesus Garcia-Tena will not be joining, despite training with the club in recent days, as he has signed for League Two side Edinburgh City.

“He was in with us, but we were just giving him a facility to train in,” Smith said.

Benedictus is likely to be sidelined until November with a leg fracture, while McHattie has had surgery on a groin problem and is due to start his recovery next week.

Despite their injury problems, Raith have opened up a six point gap at the top of League One following their 5-0 demolition of Queen’s Park at Hampden on Saturday.

Despite the result, Raith were not entirely happy with their performance, and Smith believes there is still more to come from his side.

“Sometimes it clicks, and sometimes it doesn’t, but we’re scoring goals and keeping clean sheets and that’s the most important thing,” he said.

“What we’re saying to the boys is that we’re progressing as a team. We keep asking questions.

“Even at half-time on Saturday when we’re 2-0 up, we’re asking questions, because we want them to get better as a team, and the players themselves want to get better.

“If you’ve got a team that wants to do that, it’s very encouraging.”

Statistically, Rovers are currently the best performing senior club in Scotland.

With 19 goals scored in six league games, the Kirkcaldy side are averaging 3.17 goals per game, more than any other team in the country, while they also have the meanest defence in the SPFL right now, tied with Celtic, with just three goals conceded.

Smith’s men are also one of just three Scottish clubs still protecting unbeaten league records, along with Aberdeen and Celtic, and sit six points clear at the top of League Two.

With 15 goals, Lewis Vaughan is also the nation’s top scorer, and is just two games away from matching the club’s all-time record for scoring in 13 consecutive matches, set by Joe Cowan in the 1931-32 season.

The challenge now is for the club to maintain their stunning start to the season, which has seen them claim two consecutive 5-0 wins away from home, as well as a 100 per cent record at Stark’s Park thus far.

The team is sure to face many hurdles in its bid to return to the Championship at the first attempt, but things are certainly pointing in the right direction.

Smith said: “I don’t worry about stats, I just focus on the next game, and on making sure we keep doing the same things that are getting us positive results at the moment.

“But it just shows how collectively we’re working as team. We’re scoring goals and we’re working hard defensively.”

Raith welcome Airdrie to Stark’s Park on Saturday and Smith is adamant there will be no complacency from his side as they look to build on their impressive start.

“After Saturday, you’re thinking training might drop a wee level - but no - because the boys are so desperate to do well for Raith Rovers, and give the fans something back,” he said.

“They’ve come out in their numbers and gave us very good backing, and it’s a reward for them.

“Our players see every game as a challenge, and that means you don’t get complacent. Every game is different, and it’s a tough league. We know there are teams that can cause us problems with their individuals, but at the moment, collectively, we’re doing very well as a team.”

Smith expects a young Airdrie side to provide a test.

“They’ve got a lot of young players, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad players,” he said. “A couple of them I know very well because I was interested in them previously.

“We just have to make sure we do what we’re good at. We’ve got a lot of energy in our team, and a lot of forward thinking players, who if given opportunities at the moment, are taking them.”