THRIVE ON THE EXPECTATION

Young players either in or on the fringes of the first team at Stark's Park - from left, Yaw Osei, David McKay and Andreas Thorsen (picture by Walter Neilson)
Young players either in or on the fringes of the first team at Stark's Park - from left, Yaw Osei, David McKay and Andreas Thorsen (picture by Walter Neilson)

Raith Rovers hope the confidence inspired by a solid flurry of pre-season fixtures, in which they emerged unbeaten, will propel them a long way when the competitive season starts at Tannadice.

With new boss Barry Smith at the helm, Rovers will face one of their old bosses, Ray McKinnon, and his Dundee United squad, at Tannadice in the Betfred League Cup.

An appetising encounter is in prospect, given the desire of both sides to get the 2017-18 campaign off to a positive start.

Each suffered their own crushing disappointment at the end of last season, while a number of old rivalries and acquaintances may be renewed.

Three games in a five-day pre-season diary saw the Kirkcaldy side snatch a 1-1 draw at Edinburgh City, with literally the last kick of the ball, then a pair of well-constructed wins against Clyde – 2-1 at Broadwood – and Dunfermline, a 3-0 triumph on Monday at Stark’s Park.

Winning spawned confidence, according to manager Barry Smith, and the side will hopefully carry that into the Dundee United game, which they nevertheless know will be very difficult.

“Pre-season is about getting fitness and getting confidence, and I think the boys’ attitude right through pre-season, whether it’s been training or playing games, has been absolutely spot on,” said Smith. “We’ll just look to continue that when we get into the season.”

The results and the late goals showed the fitness levels and the reserves of concentration were good, said Smith, which was always an important aspect of pre-season.

“If we can win games, that breeds confidence, and that’s a massive part of being involved – having the confidence to go and play,” he said.

A number of younger players had received some game time and Smith seemed happy with the outcome of assessing the various squad line-ups.

“Everybody had an opportunity and everyone has shown what they are capable of within the team structure,” he added.

Smith still hoped to make one more signing for the squad, if possible.

“We have one more to add to squad but we have to hang fire just now,” he said.

“The one we want is carrying a small knock, so we have to make sure enverything is right with that before we push on.”

Rovers also face Smith’s old club, Dundee, in the Betfred League Cup, then Buckie Thistle and Cowdenbeath.

Looking to Saturday, Smith said: “We know how tough a game it is – Dundee United have made some great signings but we have to go in on the back of a good couple of results and the boys have to take the same attitude and effort to the game on Saturday.

“When you do that, you give yourself every chance.

“They will be tough opponents but we will just concentrate on ourselves and make sure we perform to the best level we can.”

There were big expectations already on both teams, after the fortunes of last term.

“The players will have to handle the expectation and actually use it as a motivation rather than something to be tied down with – and I am sure they will,” said Smith.

See match reports and comments on Rovers’ pre-season games, plus more news from Stark’s Park, on pages 69-71.