Raith boss demands focus as injury-hit squad prepare for league opener

Raith manager Barry Smith -  credit- Fife Photo Agency
Raith manager Barry Smith - credit- Fife Photo Agency

Raith Rovers manager Barry Smith says his side needs to keep its focus as the League One season kicks off this weekend.

The Kirkcaldy side’s Betfred Cup campaign was mixed and ended on low point with a 2-0 defeat to Highland League side Cove Rangers on Saturday, which saw them finished bottom of the Group C table.

However, Smith says there were positives to take from the competition but his players need to concentrate in every game, regardless of the opposition.

“The be all and end all of it is that we want to do better,” he said.

“We know we had a couple of very good performances against Hearts and Inverness and disappointing against the other two teams [Cowdenbeath and Cove].

“We’ve reviewed the Cove game on video and had a lengthy discussion about where we need to be better.

“We’ve had a couple of good training sessions on top of that, so everybody knows their position, everybody knows what’s expected of them and not just in the bigger games, but in every game.”

He added: “We know what went wrong and we know what we need to focus on.

“There were a lot of positives and a lot of compliments from the two games against Hearts and Inverness, especially the second half up north.

“But we have to be able to do it against teams that were going to be playing against in League One, and, more importantly, we have to be focused for the games we play in League One.

“Nobody enjoyed Saturday’s game, but we’ve got the league campaign to focus on now and that’s the most important thing.”

Smith admitted that injuries to key senior players “doesn’t help”, especially with a relatively small squad, although the addition of goalkeeper Kieran Wright on loan from Rangers has come at a good time, with Robbie Thomson picking up an injury against Cove on Saturday.

The 19-year-old stopper is a Scotland under 19 cap, and comes to Stark’s Park on loan until the end of December 2018.

“Bringing in a goalkeeper was always our intention,” Smith said.

“It just took a bit longer to get over the line.

“We’re running with a small squad and with the amount of injuries we’ve got it shows how small it is.

“We’re putting pressure on young boys and they’ve handled the majority of it but there’s obviously going to come a stage where it’s too much having too many in the same team.

“Individually you’d maybe get a way with it but when you’re playing so many in a team it makes it more difficult.

“But I’m not going to make excuses and that’s no criticism of the young players – they’ve been excellent,.

“But they are under pressure.

“I said to the older players after the game on Saturday, you’ve got to help these guys.”

Smith is reluctant to put a time frame on those returning from injury but says Nathan Flanagan is probably expected to return to first team action soonest, with Chris Duggan and Robbie Thomson to follow, whilst Lewis Vaughan is responding well to rehab.

None will be in the frame for Saturday’s opening game of the 2018/19 season which sees Rovers travel to Stranraer. Iain Davidson will also miss out as he starts a three-match ban carried over from last season.

“They’ve had quite a big turnover of players over the summer,” Smith said.

“Like ourselves they lost a lot of players and replaced them with not quite so many, but they’re still good players.