League form is top priority for Raith boss

Joe Cardle halted in full flow by Hamilton's Lee Kilday. Pic: Neil Doig
Joe Cardle halted in full flow by Hamilton's Lee Kilday. Pic: Neil Doig

Raith Rovers manager Grant Murray has told his players to focus on the league after admitting Saturday’s horror show may have been down to a cup hangover.

Rovers followed a memorable Scottish Cup win at Easter Road with one of their worst performances in years as they shipped four first half goals at home to Hamilton.

And with only one point collected from the last 18 available - a run that has plunged the Kirkcaldy side into the bottom half of the Championship - boss Murray stressed that league form has to take top priority.

“To go from such a high at Easter Road to such a low was very disappointing,” he told the Press.

“We were well off it and Hamilton punished us at every opportunity.

“You could possibly say it was a cup hangover, but we tried to drum it into the players not to have that.

“I was part of the team that got to the semi-final against Dundee United, then went out and got hammered by Airdrie in midweek.

“It can happen, but you’ve got to overcome that. We just didn’t handle it.

“The league form is our biggest priority and we’ve got to get back to winning ways.

“We’re at that stage of the season where everyone has something to play for. Every game is now a cup final.”

A week after they were cheered off the park by almost 2000 away fans at Easter Road, Raith were subjected to a chorus of boos from the Stark’s Park faithful against Hamilton.

“I can understand the fans would be disappointed, going from one extreme to the other,” Murray said.

“You need consistency from football players, and we didn’t get that on Saturday.

“But the players know themselves when they’ve dropped their standards and let themselves down.”

Rovers are now in a position where they are five points behind the top four, and five points ahead of Cowdenbeath in the relegation play-off position.

With two games in the next four days - away to Dumbarton on Saturday and home to Alloa on Tuesday - Rovers season has reached a crunch stage.

“Where we are we’ve got both sides of it at the moment,” Murray said.

“We have to be positive and think if we can win our next two games we can start to look up the way and get back in the mix for that top four place.

“But firstly we’ve got to win one game of football before we start looking too far ahead.

“Six points could be huge, but to get that we need to start with three and that’s all we’re focusing on.

“We’ve won on our last few visits to Dumbarton but they’ve been on a good run so it will be a difficult game.”

Calum Elliot, Paul Watson and David McGurn all remain sidelined through injury, but Murray is weighing up possible changes.

“Different thoughts come into your head after any defeat,” he said. “There are decisions to be made.”

Defender Watson has stepped up his recovery from a broken foot this week and may now only be a week or two away from a run-out in the reserves.

Rovers hope to have Elliot back in training early next week, although he is unlikely to be available for the Alloa match.

Away from the pitch, the club has confirmed there will be no general public sale of tickets for the Ramsdens Cup final.

Due to a limited allocation of around 3700, tickets for the April 6 showpiece will be available from the Stark’s Park office next Thursday and Friday (February 27 and 28) to voucher holders and season ticket holders only.

Remaining tickets can be purchased via Raith supporters’ groups. Tickets are priced £20 for adults and £10 for under 16s. For further information visit www.raithrovers.net.

Rovers Scottish Cup quarter-final tie against St Johnstone will be shown live on Sky Sports on Saturday, March 8, with a 12.15 p.m kick-off.

Eric Drysdale, club secretary, said: “We’re delighted Sky has chosen us as its first choice match.

“Steps are now being taken to get everything ready for the big occasion.”