Best defensive record in Scotland gives Raith confidence in title push

Raith Rovers manager Barry Smith. Pic: George McLuskie
Raith Rovers manager Barry Smith. Pic: George McLuskie

Raith Rovers’ reputation as the defensive dominators of Scottish football is giving Barry Smith hope that they can close the gap to League One leaders, Ayr United.

Rovers, through no real fault of their own, have fallen eight points behind in the title race after Saturday’s postponement against Albion Rovers left them with two games in hand.

While Ayr are raining in goals – an incredible 79 scored in all competitions – Rovers’ defensive record is the best in the country with an average of just 0.8 goals conceded per league game.

It’s a stat that gives Smith confidence that his squad can overhaul United in the weeks ahead.

“The belief in the players never alters,” he said.

“That’s a good stat to have because we think we’re doing some good things.

“We always want to get better, but it’s a good defensive record, and the whole team has worked hard to get that.

“It’s important to have a good base to work from, because if you don’t you find yourself chasing games when you don’t have to.

“We’ve got a solid foundation and we’re working hard in other areas to get better.”

Ayr are proving to be a formidable title rival, and they came from a goal behind at half-time on Saturday to claim a 4-1 win away at East Fife, and make it seven league wins on the trot.

“There’s no getting away from it – Ayr are on a terrific run,” Smith said.

“The way we look at it, for as well as they are doing, we are not far away from them if we win our games in hand.

“We always want to be better – but that doesn’t mean we’ve done badly.

“We’re doing fine, and we’re in a good place. I don’t think folk should forget that.

“What we do is focus on the next game and make sure we get three points from that.

“We can be respectful of what other teams are doing, but if we don’t win our games it doesn’t matter.”

Rovers travel to Arbroath on Saturday looking to address a recent slide in away form that has seen them drop points at Albion Rovers, Forfar and Airdrie.

“I said after our last game against Arbroath that they are a good team,” Smith said.

“They’ve got a lot of good players and good experience, so we have to make sure we’re right at it in terms of our mentality.

“Forget about the surroundings - although it is actually a decent playing surace - but sometimes you can get caught up in other things.

“We just have to make sure that we do whatever we have to do to win the game.”

Smith has upped the insensity of training this week to compensate for the Albion postponement, but the injury situation remains a concern.

John Herron has had an injection in a groin injury and has been able to start running, along with Kevin McHattie, but both are still not ready for a return to action.

Kyle Benedictus has a doctors appointment next week where he will hope to receive the all-clear to return to full training following a broken leg in September.

Iain Davidson and Aaron Lennox both featured in the Development Squad match in midweek as they stepped up their comeback. The match against Stirling Albion U20s finished 1-1. Youngster Jamie Watson is also carrying a knock while Bobby Barr is again likely to be on the bench, with treatment on a groin problem still ongoing.