Raith boss Smith delighted with festive points return

Raith Rovers manager Barry Smith has heaped praise on his injury-hit squad after emerging from a tough festive programme with maximum points.

Friday, 5th January 2018, 12:57 pm
Updated Friday, 5th January 2018, 1:02 pm
New Bayview - Methil - Fife - East Fife v Raith - goalscorer SCOTT ROBERTSON celebrates with Liam Buchanan - credit- Fife Photo Agency

With four first teamers out of action and the squad light on numbers, Smith has relied on the same small pool of players to deliver nine points from nine, with some even playing through injury at times.

Fit-again midfielder John Herron is expected to return to the squad this Saturday, and the addition of Regan Hendry on loan from Celtic has also provided the manager with an added option in midfield.

The Raith boss had also hoped to bring recently released Falkirk striker Nathan Austin to the club and although talks had been positive, a deal could not be finalised in the timescale required and he made the move to Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

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With the two-horse title race still neck and neck, Smith remains hopeful of making another January addition, although he admits he is still awaiting clarification on what finances are available.

Regardless, he is delighted with his team’s recent run of form that has taken them to within two points of leaders Ayr United, with two games in hand.

“We’ve had a tough run of fixtures over the festive period with Arbroath, Stranraer, then the derby,” he said.

“To pick up nine points from those games is a great return for us.

“We always knew it was going to be tough at Bayview.

“East Fife are well organised, but the boys have got the bit between their teeth, and never at any point were we settling for a 2-2 draw. We were always going to try and win the game.”

Rovers now welcome bottom of the table Forfar Athletic to Stark’s Park on Saturday and while the Kirkcaldy side are looking to make it 10 wins from 10 at Stark’s Park this season, they will not be taking Jim Weir’s side lightly following their recent 3-2 win at Somerset Park.

“For as much as they are bottom of the league they put in a good performance against us at Station Park when we drew there,” Smith said.

“They’ve shown how dangerous they can be by beating Ayr at Somerset, so we have to be wary of them, but in the knowledge that if we do things properly, we’ll win the game.”

After being listed as an unused sub at Bayview, Celtic loanee Regan Hendry could be in line for his Raith debut this weekend.

“Regan’s not cost us much,” Smith said.

“We’ve watched him over a number of weeks and he’s certainly impressed in any games we’ve seen him in.

“He’s creative, and can play a couple of positions, which is important, and he’ll certainly be a good addition to the squad.”

Bobby Barr has had an injection in an attempt to cure an ongoing groin problem, but there is still no timescale on his return, or that of Kevin McHattie and Kyle Benedictus, although both are making progress.