Raith looking stronger for trip to Dumfries

Gary Locke cut a frustrated figure on the touchline at Stark's Park on Saturday as Raith lost their unbeaten league record in a 2-0 defeat to Falkirk. Pic: Michael Gillen
Gary Locke cut a frustrated figure on the touchline at Stark's Park on Saturday as Raith lost their unbeaten league record in a 2-0 defeat to Falkirk. Pic: Michael Gillen
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Raith Rovers boss Gary Locke is hoping that a shortened injury list can help his team get back on track against Queen of the South on Saturday.

Rovers were missing eight first team players as they lost their long unbeaten league record in a 2-0 defeat to Falkirk at Stark’s Park last weekend.

With Chris Johnston and Kevin Cuthbert back training, and Mark Stewart and Jean-Yves M’voto pencilled in for a return today (Thursday), Locke is hopeful of taking a stronger squad to Dumfries.

“When you’ve got a wee bit momentum and things are going well, there’s always something that comes along to test you,” Locke told the Press.

“For us to pick up seven or eight injuries when we did – and all to players who would challenge for places in the side – it’s been frustrating.

“But I’m not going to make excuses – there’s nothing we can do about it.

“It’s given an opportunity to one or two others, and hopefully there are one or two on the way back this week and that will create competition for places, which is what you need.

“If you look at the squad on Saturday, we had a couple of young lads on the bench who aren’t ready yet – but we don’t have enough strengh in depth.

“Once we get everyone fit we’ll have a decent squad. We’ll see the returning lads respond to training this week. Hopefully there’s no reaction and they’ll all be back in the squad.”

Reflecting on the defeat to Falkirk, Locke added: “It was our first defeat in the league, so we’re not going to get too despondent.”

“We hadn’t achieved anything because we’d won a few games, so by the same token, you can’t get too down about the fact we’ve lost a game.

“I felt we were in control and, as much as we weren’t at our best, I still felt we were the better side. We didn’t have the cutting edge in the final third we normally have, so we’ve worked on that in training this week and tried to sharpen up a wee bit.

“Hopefully we can respond well on Saturday.

“You find out a bit about players’ character after a defeat, but they’re a great bunch of boys and I’ve not got any problems with that.

“We’re still third in the league and it’s been a decent start, but it’s important we bounce back in what will be a really tough game.”

Rovers travel to Palmerston Park to face an on-fire Queens side unbeaten after five Championship games, and who sit second in the table.

“They are flying at the minute,” Locke said. “We’ve had them watched three or four times and they are rightly second top because of the way they’ve been playing.

“We’ll have to work ever so hard because if we don’t we’ll come unstuck. The most important thing is we bounce back.”

Locke admits Rovers will need to pay particular attention to Queens star striker Stephen Dobbie, who has returned to the club after several years in the English Championship.

“He’s played at the top level and it’s a major coup for them getting him in,” Locke said. “But they’ve got quality right through their squad – and players I’ve worked with in the past like Jamie Hamill and Callum Tapping – and I know the manager Gavin Skelton from Kilmarnock. It’s a game we’re looking forward to.”