Raith hungry for victory in New Year derby showdown

Rival bosses Gary Locke and Alan Johnston will go head-to-head in the New Year Fife derby at Stark's Park on January 2. Pic: Ian Rutherford
Rival bosses Gary Locke and Alan Johnston will go head-to-head in the New Year Fife derby at Stark's Park on January 2. Pic: Ian Rutherford

Stark’s Park is expected to be packed to the rafters on Monday as Raith Rovers and Dunfermline go head to head in the first fixture of 2017.

Six years have passed since the last New Year derby at Stark’s Park when a Gregory Tade goal sealed a 2-1 win for Raith in front of 6534 supporters.

A similar bumper crowd is expected for the upcoming January 2 clash with Rovers reporting ‘brisk’ ticket sales at the stadium this week.

For boss Gary Locke, the onus is firmly on winning three points after a series of five draws and a defeat in the last six games.

“We’ve only had one defeat in nine, which is a great record in anybody’s book, but we’ve had too many draws and that’s why we’ve not pulled away from the pack,” he said.

“If we can show the same level of performance, and take our chances, it won’t be long before we start winning games and get ourselves up towards the right end of the league.

“It would be great to start the new year with a derby win but we know it will be difficult.

“It’s important that we put in a good performance because, for me, Dunfermline are in a false positon. We watched them against Falkirk the other day, and they’ve got a lot of quality throughout their squad. There isn’t that big a gap between us so it will be a close game.”

Raith will be without the suspended Kyle Benedictus, but Ross Callachan returns to the squad following his ban, while Kevin McHattie is hoping to recover from the hamstring strain that kept him out of the 1-1 draw at Easter Road on Christmas Eve.

Locke is hopeful that the return of experienced pros Jason Thomson and Craig Barr from injury – as well as one or two possible additions in January –can see the team kick on in the second half of the campaign.

“The bench is starting to look stronger, whereas earlier in the season we only had enough numbers to strip four subs at times,” he said.

“If we can get everyone fit and available hopefully that will create even more of a spark through the team because players know if they are not playing well they’ll not even be stripped.

“It will be difficult for myself and Darren when everyone is fit because we’ll have to leave at least two quality players in the stand – but it’s a great headache to have as a manager.

“I’m also trying to get a striker in January if I can. We’ve not got anything concrete but we’ve got one that’s quite far down the line. Whether it happens or not, we have to wait and see.

“We’re working on trying to get a couple out on loan if we can, because to bring someone in we’ve got to get someone out to balance the books.

“It’s hard trying to get young boys out on loan because a lot of them are untried, and managers don’t know too much about them. If we can do that, it might give us scope to bring one in, or two if I can, although that will be difficult.”

Raith centre-half Jean-Yves M’voto has been named in the SPFL Team of the Season so far following a string of impressive performances, and Locke revealed he is trying to extend the Frenchman’s contract, which runs out at the end of the season.

“I knew the kind of player I was bringing to the club and I was actually amazed I got him,” he said.

“He’s come in and done great and I hope he’s enjoyed himself that much that he’ll be committed to signing a longer contract, and that’s what we’re trying to do at the minute.”