Raith Rovers: Manager Ian Murray says his current squad has far better overall quality than last season ahead of Hamilton Accies cup rematch this Friday
After ending last term in seventh place in the Scottish Championship with 43 points from 36 games – winning only 11 league matches all season – Murray’s men have excelled under new ownership and with a vastly changed squad this campaign, sitting in second place on 27 points from 12 games following eight victories, three draws and just one loss.
“In terms of the start I think we’re probably ahead of where we all thought we were going to be,” the 42-year-old gaffer told the Fife Free Press.
"We always had progress in our minds and were trying to do as well as we can but I think putting so many new players together and with a lot of changes around the club it was always going to be difficult for us to put ourselves in the current position so I’m very happy.
"Without being disrespectful to the players that were there last season, it’s a higher standard of player in my opinion.
"Numbers in the squad are kind of similar in terms of what we actually have to work with but certainly in most positions we do have better quality. I’m not saying the players that left weren’t good enough, we’ve just recruited really, really well.
"That’s not just down to myself. It’s down to Colin Cameron (Raith assistant manager), John Potter (technical director), Andrew Barrowman (chief executive), a board of directors that have come in and backed us a little bit.
"It’s not monetary value that I’m talking about, it’s about the backing of people who understand football which is a massive help."
Another chance to gauge the positive progress made at Raith comes in Friday’s SPFL Trust Trophy quarter-final tie at Hamilton (kick-off 7.45pm), with Raith boosted by the news that ex-Celtic B centre-back Dylan Corr is back in full training after a lengthy spell out with a freak toe injury.
Murray gave a full update on Rovers’ current injury and suspension list.
"Obviously with Euan Murray being sent off at Queen’s Park, he’s unavailable for this week,” the Kirkcaldy boss added.
“Ross Matthews and Keith Watson will be unavailable through injuries but Jamie Gullan and Jack Hamilton had no reaction to last Saturday’s game which is fantastic.
"Dylan Corr (who incurred the toe fracture during the first half of Raith’s 3-2 league cup Group F win at Annan Athletic back on July 29) out of all the injured boys is the closest. Dylan is doing some really good pitch work and he’s back with the squad which is really good news as it’s been really hard for him.
"We brought him in to be one of our four centre-halves, him and Adam (Masson), behind Keith Watson and Euan Murray and he picked up a really strange injury that we just didn’t really see keeping him out this long.
“It’s very odd. It’s 10 or 11 weeks he’s been out now and we thought it was going to be two or three.
"He’s a really good young player, bags of speed, we just need to give him a bit of experience.
"He’s got a little bit of it so far but by this stage of his development we want to give him a lot more.
“So we’re delighted to get him back. It’s really important at this stage, especially with Keith being out and Euan Murray’s suspension.”
Murray and his men are now very keen to gain some sort of revenge against a Hamilton side which, as well as beating Raith with 10 men in last season’s cup final, also effectively ended Rovers’ play-off hopes last term by winning 2-1 at Stark’s Park on April 4.
"Obviously Hamilton beat us in the final of this competition last season,” Murray added.
"They’ve had a fantastic start to their League 1 campaign. They recruited exceptionally well in the summer and arguably have a stronger team this season than they did last season, albeit in a lower division.
"The manager (John Rankin) is having his second season which is always really, really important.
"So it’s going to be a really tough game, we know that. But we go there full of confidence, no question about it.
"We go there looking to win the game. We have an opportunity now to get ourselves into the semi-finals.”