Locke determined to guide Raith back to winning ways

Raith manager Gary Locke. Picture Ian Rutherford
Raith manager Gary Locke. Picture Ian Rutherford

Raith Rovers manager Gary Locke is determined to turn the club’s season around after describing the defeat to Dumbarton as his lowest point of the season so far.

Plaudits quickly turned to criticism as his Rovers side followed a heroic effort against Hearts in the Scottish Cup with a jaded performance in a 3-1 loss to Dumbarton.

“It was a game I was worried about after the rigours of the week we’d had,” Locke said. “I knew the two Hearts games had taken a lot out of the players and on Friday morning at training there were a lot of tired bodies.

“That’s the type of game where it’s more about the mindset rather than the physical state of the players. We went 1-0 up, it was a scrappy game, and in the second half we looked dead on our feet.

“But, it’s not an excuse. It was a game we needed to win especially with the run we’ve been on. We’re deeply disappointed, but there are reasons as to why we were so flat in the second half.

“The good thing is we now have a full week to recover, and another big game on Saturday where we need to get a result.”

Rovers have collected fewer points than any other Championship side since the end of October, and are desperate for a win after 12 matches without one.

Locke takes his team to Tannadice on Saturday for a live BBC Alba fixture (kick-off 5.15 p.m) against a Dundee United side who are also desperate for a win after falling eight points behind Hibs in the title race.

Cause for optimism is Raith’s record against the so-called ‘bigger’ clubs this season, remaining unbeaten in seven fixtures against Ross County, Hibs, Hearts and Dundee United.

“That’s what is frustrating everybody – including myself – because you see how good we can be,” Locke said. “Is it a psychological issue? Because the boys have shown they are capable of playing against the best teams in the country and getting results. If we can just show the same belief in the other games, we can get our season back on track.”

Locke bolstered the squad on transfer deadline day with the acquisition of 19-year-old defender David Syme following his release from Partick Thistle.

“He’s a young lad I know well from my time at Kilmarnock and who fits the profile here,” he said. “If he comes in and does as well as I know he can, I’m hopeful that he might make the club money in the future. He’s not played as much this season as he would’ve liked, but he’s a very talented lad. He’s really aggressive, can play centre-back and right back, so hopefully he can do well.”

The transfer window has closed, but emergency loans are still possible, and Rovers are hoping to farm a few of their younger players out to the lower leagues.

“There are a few young lads we’d like to send out, but we’re looking to get their wages covered, and clubs that want them don’t have any money either so it’s a catch 22,” Locke said.

“Development football is fine, but if we want these boys to improve they have to play at a better level.

“There are one or two who have been on the fringes but are not quite ready for first team football, and we’ve got to protect them. They might be ready to play at lower level and playing alongside experienced pros in games that mean something would help them massively. We’ll look at that, but whether something happens or not, it will depend on other clubs.”