Pressure is on our play-off rivals, says Raith boss
Raith Rovers boss Ray McKinnon has cranked up the heat on his play-off rivals by insisting that there is no pressure on his team to win promotion.
For Rovers the play-offs begin on Wednesday with a home leg against either Falkirk and Hibs, whoever finishes third following Saturday’s final league games.
McKinnon has no preference over which team he comes up against first as he stands six matches away from achieving the dream of reaching the Premiership.
“Expectation levels are massive for Hibs to get there, and equally for Falkirk,” McKinnon said. “One of those clubs are building themselves up for a fall - but there’s no fall for us. We’ve already exceeded expectations so anything we get now is a bonus.
“There’s no pressure on us - I’m not feeling any whatsoever. Others teams are blowing themselves up with mind games. We don’t have to get involved. We just have to focus on our performance.”
McKinnon insists he has learned from his two previous play-off experiences that saw his Brechin City side lose the home leg 2-0 to Alloa Athletic on both occasions. Despite winning both second legs, they went out on aggregate.
“I was involved in them a couple of times at Brechin so I know what’s required,” he said. “I know exactly what the play-offs are all about and that you need to be in the game at half-time in the first game.
“We know how important the first leg is.
‘‘A 0-0 score is a good score. It’s important we get it right at home. I certainly know how we will be setting up and making sure we’ve got a chance to go through.”
Whether Falkirk or Hibs come to Stark’s Park on Wednesday, McKinnon expects to face a team on a downer from missing out on a second place.
“I’ve no preference over who we play first, but I’m pretty certain they both want to avoid us,” he said. “If they don’t finish second they will be gutted, because they both thought they had it in the bag this season.
“Then the pressure really starts because, never mind trying to beat each other, they have to beat us first, and as Falkirk and Hibs have found out recently, that’s not easy.”
With the play-offs taking priority some may be tempted to field a youth time in Sunday’s final game of the season away to Livingston, (12.30 kick-off), but not McKinnon.
“We’re just treating it the same - we want to go out and give a performance,” he said.
“We want to keep the momentum going. It’s a big game for us because we don’t want to lower our standards before the play-offs. It’s an important game for us and the players selected will know that.”
Kyle Benedictus is suspended for the match but will return for the play-offs.
McKinnon has rotated his squad in recent weeks and while he has his tactics set for the play-offs, he insists that positions are still up for grabs.
“I’m looking at how everyone is training, how players are perfoming in games, and their attitude when not playing,” he said.
“That all comes into it, because if you want to win six games you’re going to need the whole squad. We knew that, and that’s why we’ve roatted it.
“Hopefully we’ve got the planning correct on that side of things.
“It’s not about the 11 on the park it’s the whole squad because if we want to do something special with this club, everyone will be used. That means we’re all in it together.”