Busy spell for Raith on and off the pitch

Raith boss Ray McKinnon patrols the touchline against Morton on Saturday. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Raith boss Ray McKinnon patrols the touchline against Morton on Saturday. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers have been busy on and off the field with some key signings made amidst a crucial run of fixtures in the race for the play-offs.

Rovers this week bolstered their forward line with the signing of former Hamilton striker Joel Thomas (28), who made his debut from the bench in the 2-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox on Tuesday.

The Kirkcaldy club has also confirmed that young striker Lewis Vaughan (20), has signed a new contract that will keep him at the club until the summer of 2017.

With one eye on next season, Rovers have also revealed the acquisition of Morton ace Bobby Barr (27) on a pre-contract agreement.

The left sided midfielder will leave Cappielow in the summer to join up with his former Brechin manager, Ray McKinnon, at Stark’s Park.

With Lewis Toshney, Kyle Benedictus and David Bates also signed up, and other key players finalising new contracts, McKinnon is feeling positive ahead of next season.

“I think we’ve got the makings of right good team here,” he said. “We’ve got a number of strong players on our books, and with a wee bit of added brilliance up top, which we’re trying to get, we’re looking good for next season.”

French forward Thomas has been training with Raith since January and, with Mark Stewart currently injured, Harry Panayiotou called up for international duty and a slight possibility Ryan Hardie could be recalled by Rangers, McKinnon felt the another striker was required.

“Joel’s not kicked a ball for months but we desperately needed him,” he explained.

“In a worst case scenario we could be left with no striker so we had to ask the board to push the boat out, and to Joel’s credit, he’s signed for buttons.

“Hopefully he can give us a wee bit presence up top because we’ve got a tough run of games coming.”

McKinnon rates the signing of Barr, regarded by many as Morton’s best player, as a marquee signing ahead of next season.

“I know him inside out and he’s just hitting his peak,” he said. “He’s proven himself at this level and he wants to work with me. He’s a real livewire and will run from by-line to by-line. It’s a magnificent signing.”

McKinnon leads his side into two crucial home fixtures this week with Saturday’s visit of St Mirren and Tuesday’s match against Queen of the South sure to have a big say in the race for fourth place.

McKinnon made four changes for the midweek game at Ibrox with the upcoming double header in mind.

“Everybody that needed a game got one so if they are called upon they are ready,” he said. “That was the most important thing as move into a period of fixtures - making sure everyone is up to speed.

“We got fitness into some, and rest into others. Everything is geared towards being at our peak for the upcoming games.”

McKinnon’s men will go into the weekend in good spirit, having not been too downhearted by the 2-0 defeat at Ibrox on Tuesday.

The gaffer added: “The game plan was to make sure we were solid and take it as far as we could.

“We were disappointed to lose the second goal so quickly after half-time because we would have had a right push to get something late in the game, but that killed it.

“Rangers will be champions - they are dominating Premier League teams - so there’s no disgrace in going there and getting beat 2-0.”