Raith ready for big week in league and cup

Raith Rovers Hall of Fame 2017: Barry Smith, manager Raith Rovers (Pic: George McLuskie)
Raith Rovers Hall of Fame 2017: Barry Smith, manager Raith Rovers (Pic: George McLuskie)

After Saturday’s Fife derby win, the big games just keep on coming for Raith Rovers with two important cup ties sandwiched between an eagerly-anticipated trip to title rivals Ayr United in midweek.

Rovers travel to Dumbarton on Saturday with a place in the Irn-Bru Cup semi-finals up for grabs, while the Scottish Cup campaign starts in Peterhead the following weekend, but everyone will have one eye on the crucial league match at Somerset Park on Tuesday.

Ayr displaced Raith at the top of the League One table on Saturday by virtue of goal difference and, while Raith have a game in hand, they will want to reclaim top spot.

However, for boss Barry Smith, it’s one game at a time, and he is looking to follow up the Irn-Bru Cup victory over St Mirren in the previous round by claiming another Championship scalp.

The victory in Paisley was earned with a number of Craig Easton’s development squad players in the starting line-up, and with a busy schedule to contend with, Smith could look to utilise youth once again.

“It’s a quarter-final so we want to go to Dumbarton and win,” he said.

“There’s the Ayr game on Tuesday, which we’ve got to be thinking about because it’s so close, but we’ll pick a team we think will win the game.

“The young players came in and did very well at St Mirren. We played a system that helped them play as well as they did, because it protected them in certain circumstances.

“But they still had to go out and play, and they did that, so if we need to use them on Saturday we know what they are capable of.”

The cup quarter-final saw the Ayr game rescheduled for Tuesday, at the home club’s request, but Smith refuted suggestions that a rest weekend will hand Ian McCall’s men an advantage.

“They might think they’re coming in with fresh legs, but they’ll also not have played for 10 days, which can also have an adverse affect,” Smith said.

“We’ve just got to concentrate on what we do and make sure we have everyone fit and available.

“For us, it doesn’t really matter when it’s played. We can sit and make excuses – it’s easy to do that.

“It doesn’t make it any easier, but you just have to get on with what’s put in front of you and these boys have done that. They are very strong-minded in that sense.”

Raith will take confidence into the Ayr game having already taken three points from the first meeting of the season at Stark’s Park in September.

“The boys will know they’re capable of winning the game,” Smith said.

“It’s a different game going down there, and we’ll have to be at our best.

“They’ve got good attacking players, but if we defend properly, as we have done in almost every game, we’ll give ourselves a very good base to go and win it.”

Iain Davidson returns from suspension while Aaron Lennox and Kyle Benedictus remain on schedule on their return from long-term injury.

Scott Robertson and Bobby Barr are both doubts for Saturday with minor knocks.

Smith also enjoyed his first Raith Hall of Fame show on Monday, adding: “It was very well run and as someone who’s just been involved with Raith, to be in the company of guys like John McGlynn, Peter Hetherston, Jock McStay and big Craig Brewster was great.

“Listening to what John was saying about when they won the league, every situation is different, but on paper it’s a similar scenario, and all we want to do is emulate what John did and get promoted.”