Raith Rovers striker Mark Stewart is hoping to lead the team out of a rut after following up his recent contract extension by reclaiming his place in the side.
After five consecutive substitute appearances, the 28-year-old was recalled to the starting XI for the cup games against Hearts, and played a big part in two impressive team performances.
He was also Raith’s brightest performer against Dumbarton on Saturday, setting up the opener for Ryan Hardie, before a second half capitulation saw the Kirkcaldy side slump to a fourth successive league defeat.
Raith are now 12 games without a win in all competitions and pressure is building to get a much-needed three points, however Stewart’s return to form is at least one cause for optimism.
“Signing the new contract was a wee boost, from a mental aspect,” he said.
“I feel sharp and fit, and I suppose I’m playing well, but I’d rather win games.
“As a team we’re not playing consistently badly for 90 minutes. It’s just spells in games that is costing us.
“Away to Morton we were good for large spells, against Falkirk we started well then lost bad goals, and we played very well in the two Hearts games.
“On Saturday we were the dominant team in first half, but the second half just wasn’t acceptable. We know it’s not good enough and we were all devastated after the game.
“It was a bad defeat but we just need to stick together and dig in to get out of this rut we’re stuck in.
“That win needs to come at some point. We’re a good group - a good dressing room and coaching staff - and we just need to persevere and it will come eventually.
“It happened last year in November to January where we had one win in 12, so we know it’s possible to get out of it and kick on. We just need to show some bottle, get the sleeves rolled up and go again.”
Stewart refused to blame tired legs for Rovers’ second half display against Dumbarton in what was their third match in six days following the cup exertions against Hearts.
“We can’t use that as an excuse - it happens to everybody,” he said. “It was a tough couple of games Sunday and Wednesday but we’re fit, full-time players.
“We just performed very poorly in the second half and got well beaten. It shouldn’t have been like that.
“It can’t be good to look at - and we’re all hurting as well. We need to get back to the way we were playing at the start of the season.”
Rovers face Dundee United at Tannadice on Saturday - one of the toughest fixtures on the calendar - but Stewart insists a victory is a must.
“The opposition is irrevelant,” he said. “We just need to do a hard week’s work and get the win. This needs to get put to bed, and then we can kick on as a squad.”