Raith defender aims to shut-out free-scoring Ayr strikers
Defender Jason Thomson admits Raith Rovers will need to be at their best if they are to become the first team in Scotland to keep a clean sheet at Somerset Park this season.
Rovers’ title rivals are the top scorers in domestic football this season, having surpassed the 100-goal mark in the 3-0 win over Airdrieonians a fornight ago.
Ian McCall’s side have only failed to hit the net twice in 36 games in all competitions, in a 5-0 defeat to Hibs at Easter Road in the Betfred Cup, and in a 2-0 loss at Airdrie before Christmas.
But on home soil, Ayr have scored in every game – a record Thomson is certainly wary of ahead of the crunch meeting at Somerset Park on Saturday.
“They are scoring a lot of goals and it’s a massive strength for them,” the right back said.
“They’ve got two or three boys on over 20 goals for the season so we know that, defensively, as a whole team, but especially the back four and goalkeeper, we’ll have to be on top of our game, and I think we have been for most of this season.
“At one point we did have the best defensive record in the country so we’ll be confident that we can go down there and make it hard for them.”
Raith’s solid defensive record was not evident on their previous trip to Ayr in October when an injury-ravaged side went down to a 3-0 midweek defeat, although Thomson stressed that the performance that night was not reflective of the Kirkcaldy club this season.
“That’s probably the one game and result where we really let ourselves down,” Thomson said.
“We’ve had the odd disappointing result, especially the last couple of weeks losing last minute goals, but that Ayr game was the biggest negative of the season, both the result and performance.
“Having said that, I think we’ve bounced back brilliantly since then, and it’s in our hands, which you would prefer, rather than relying on anyone else.
“It will be a tough game down there, and they are coming off the back of two good results, but we are still full of confidence.
“Losing last minute goals the last two weeks hasn’t been like us because we’ve been pretty good defensively and we’ve seen out a lot of tight games.”
While Ayr’s scoring expolits have grabbed the headlines, Raith have also managed to score in every home game this season, while they are third top scorers across the Scottish leagues.
“That probably goes under the rader a little bit because of how many goals Ayr have scored, but we can take that as a positive as well,” Thomson added.
“At the start of the season is probably when we scored a lot of our goals, and it would be great to get back to that form.
“But the main thing come Saturday is three points.”
Whoever claims victory on Saturday is sure to gain a psychological edge for the run-in but Thomson insists nothing will be won or lost in terms of the title race.
“There’s still eight or nine games to go and a lot of points to play for but it can be a big factor for us if we can get a win and go seven points clear,” he said.
“We know how tough game it’s going to be but we’ll treat it like any game that we have all season and hopefully that will give us the three points that we’re looking for.
“It’s not going to decide the league, but it might have a little bit of a say in it.”
Regardless of Saturday’s result, if the season so far is anything to go by the title race is sure to have more nail-biting twists and turns to come, although Thomson insists he is enjoying the pressure this season compared to last.
“I know what I’d rather be doing,” he said.
“Although we are in the league below, the doom and gloom of last season compared to now is night and day, and that’s the difference a season can make.
“I’d certainly rather be pushing to go up rather than fighting to avoid coming down.
“It’s all to play for and there will be twists and turns like there has been all season.
“We’ve still got a few tough games to come up after Ayr until the end of the season.”