Raith boss expects difficult start to league campaign in Ayr

From left:  Forwards Chris Johnston, Declan McManus, Lewis Vaughan and Bobby Barr will hope to lead Raith to victory in Ayr on Saturday. Pic: FPA
From left: Forwards Chris Johnston, Declan McManus, Lewis Vaughan and Bobby Barr will hope to lead Raith to victory in Ayr on Saturday. Pic: FPA

A new league season begins for Raith Rovers on Saturday with a tough trip to the west coast to face newly-promoted Ayr United.

It promises to be a challenging start to the Championship campaign for Raith boss Gary Locke, who will be looking for his players to bounce back from their weekend Betfred Cup defeat to Alloa.

It will be Raith’s first visit to Somerset Park since December 2011 when John McGlynn managed the side to a 1-1 draw, thanks to a John Baird goal.

A similar result on Saturday might be considered a decent start against an Ayr side who were promoted through the play-offs, and who went one better than Raith and reached the last 16 of the Betfred Cup.

“We’ve had them watched a few times and it will be a really difficult game,” Locke said.

“They’ve got Premier League players in their team so we know it will be a difficult game, but certainly one we’re looking forward to.

“Most of the games in this league, you’ll have to win the battle before you get to play.

“Somerset is always a difficult place to go and you need to win your individual battles and hopefully we’ve got players with quality who can do something for us during the 90 minutes.”

Locke admitted that his players will need to learn from Saturday’s defeat to Alloa if they are to return with a positive result from Ayrshire.

“We went over the game as we always do, win or lose,” he said. “It was a disappointing way to end what we thought had been a decent pre-season.

“We’re disappointed not to get into the next round because we felt we’d done enough to get there.

“But in the first 45 minutes on Saturday, for one reason or another, we just didn’t do what we’ve been good at.

“In the second half we huffed and puffed without creating too much.

“We’ll be working on that side of things – trying to get the players a wee bit sharper, and a wee bit quicker in thought.

“If we can do that, hopefully we can bounce back in what is our most important game so far down in Ayr.”

Locke was frustrated by the contrast between the Alloa performance, and the display against Ross County in Dingwall the previous week.

“Was it because we’re playing against Premiership opposition, you’re more up for the game?” he asked.

“For me, to be a top pro, you need to be motivated for every game.

“The players have been fantastic boys to work with but for 45 minutes that’s the poorest we’ve played.

“I try to look at the positives and we haven’t really been like that in most of the games.

“Against Ross County we were excellent – when we do turn up and play like that we’re a good side.

“We just have to make sure we do that again.”

Locke revealed that he is still hopeful of adding one more ‘forward-thinking’ centre midfielder to the squad, most likely a loan signing, before the closure of the transfer window at the end of the month.

“We’re trying to get one more player in, but whether that’s going to happen I’m not sure,” he said.

Locke is also anticipating sending a few of Raith’s younger players out on loan to lower league sides in order to gain first team experience.

“I’d rather they were out playing games rather than sitting on the sidelines here,” he added.