McKinnon happy with Raith’s first friendly outing

Ray McKinnon surveys the 2-0 defeat to Hearts on Tuesday night - his first match in the Stark's Park dug-out. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Ray McKinnon surveys the 2-0 defeat to Hearts on Tuesday night - his first match in the Stark's Park dug-out. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Ray McKinnon was a happy man despite tasting defeat in his first friendly match in charge of Raith Rovers on Tuesday night.

McKinnon felt his new-look side acquitted themselves well against last season’s Championship winners despite a gulf in fitness levels.

“Hearts looked sharp - they looked much fitter than us - but I’m really pleased with how it went,” McKinnon said.

“For the first 60 minutes I thought we were excellent. We competed well, and defensively we did well.

“The result’s not important, it was just about making sure we were competitive, and had a good shape about us.

“I’m pleased for the first game considering we were a wee bit off the pace.”

All of Raith’s seven new signings were given an outing, while former Hibs and Kilmarnock midfielder Euan Smith made a substitute appearance as a trialist.

“Ideally we wouldn’t have kept anyone on for the full 90 but we had to do that with James Craigen and Kyle Benedictus,” he said.

“I thought the new guys did well - and we’re still fiddling about with the shape.

“We’re still not certain how we’re going to play but when I watch games like that I’ll get a better idea for the players.”

McKinnon also sprung a surprise by utilising winger Grant Anderson as a striker.

“I played Grant up top - he generally plays out wide - and I thought he did excellently and made some great runs,” he said.

“We’ll have a look at people in different areas of the park and see how they play.

“But overall, against a team that’s probably a bit fitter than us, I think the boys did well.”

Raith finished the match with a very young side featuring products of the club’s youth system.

“We are a young team and they’ll get better and more confident the more games they get, and the more experience they get playing out there,” McKinnon added.

“There’s a lot of positives, and a lot to work with.”

McKinnon is now preparing his side for another tough test against Aberdeen at Stark’s Park on Sunday (1.00 p.m) before Dundee visit on Wednesday (7.45 p.m).

“We could’ve picked an easier schedule but we’ve got some really hard games and the guys will benefit fitness-wise from that going into the season,” he said.

“We’ve got Aberdeen and Dundee to come - Aberdeen have been playing in Europe, and Dundee have been away to Hungary.

“It’s a test but that’s what you want at this period of the season. It’s fitness we’re looking for.

“Some people like to ease into the season with a couple of games where they can go out and dominate possession.

“But our guys have to work harder off the ball in these games so it’s a good test for them.”

Mark Stewart missed the Hearts match with a slight calf strain but has taken full part in pre-season training and could return in time to face Aberdeen. Craig Barr, however, has not taken part in any pre-season training and remains sidelined with a groin injury.