Raith boss backs team to rediscover scoring touch

Raith striker Mark Stewart in action against St Mirren. Pic: Eddie Doig
Raith striker Mark Stewart in action against St Mirren. Pic: Eddie Doig

Raith Rovers manager Gary Locke has backed his team to rediscover the scoring touch after a recent barren run in front of goal.

Raith have hit the net just once in four winless games - winger Joel Coustrain’s deflected effort against Ayr - with three draws culminating in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at St Mirren Park.

However, Locke is prepared to keep faith with strikers Declan McManus and Mark Stewart , a partnership that has not yet lived up to the promise shown in the 4-2 win away to Falkirk in October.

“They’ve done alright,” Locke said. “I wouldn’t say their performances have been bad. Obviously, in the goal return, we’re looking for them to score more, and on Saturday had they taken their chances they could have had a goal each.

“The good thing is they are getting into positions, they are working hard for the team, and their overall general play has been good, as has the rest of the boys.

“If we keep creating the chances, they’ll score goals.”

Despite Saturday’s defeat the Raith boss was happier with his side’s performance than in the recent draws against Dumbarton and Ayr.

“The two games previous we got a point without playing well, and at times we took the easy option and just went back to front,” he said.

“But on Saturday, for me, we deserved something out the game. We moved the ball better, and looked a wee bit sharper going forward.

“You don’t take comfort from that because, like the fans, you hate getting beat.

“But in the two weeks we had off, we tried to get the message across that we needed to move the ball, and get back to playing football again.

“We did that a lot better – but you want to win. We’ve got a game in hand and if we win it we go back up to third, but we have to make sure we start winning again because it’s coming to a crucial time of the season.”

After taking just three points from games against the bottom four sides, Raith now face a tough tests gainst the teams at the top, starting with the visit of Ray McKinnon’s Dundee United on Saturday, before a trip to Easter Road to face Hibs on Christmas Eve.

“There’s very little between the teams, and I certainly feel if we play to our best we’re capable of winning the games we’ve got coming up,” Locke said. Saturday will be a good game, a big crowd – one the boys are looking forward to.

“When we played them at Tannadice, they started like a train that day. Then, we made a wee change that got us back in the game and for 60 minutes we were different class.

“We’ll certainly need the same type of performance because they are flying at the moment, and have won their last six or seven games.”

Raith were boosted by the return of Jason Thomson and Craig Barr to training this week, and Locke is hoping to organise closed doors games to help them recover match fitness.

“They are just back training so we can’t expect miracles, but I’ll certainly be looking to get them involved over the Christmas period because there are a lot of games in quick succession,” Locke said. “It will be good to get these experienced boys back because we’re a young side, and it will bring competition for places, which is great.”

Kyle Benedictus returns from suspension.