Raith Rovers boss Barry Smith admits his side are facing a difficult task on Saturday as they travel to Paisley to face the Championship leaders with an injury-hit squad.
With up to five first choice players likely to miss out, and a few others nursing knocks, Smith admits that it will take an enormous effort to progress past St Mirren in the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup.
With a quarter-final place up for grabs, Raith will be out to win the tie, but Smith admits that his priority is keeping his squad healthy for the following week’s league match at home to Arbroath.
“The cup game is different for me because we’re building up to the next league game against Arbroath,” he said.
“We want to get through in the cup but the bigger picture for us is that the league is the priority this season.
“We’ll put out the strongest team we can, but we have to protect ourselves because we’ve got so many injuries.”
Aaron Lennox, Kevin Cuthbert, Kyle Benedictus and Kevin McHattie all remain sidelined while Iain Davidson and Scott Robertson are also nursing injuries and are unlikely to be risked.
The injury situation did not help matters as Raith crashed to their first league defeat of the season at Albion Rovers on Saturday.
The performance was out of keeping with Raith’s excellent campaign so far, and Smith insisted that both the coaching staff and the players will learn from the loss.
“We’ve lost one game in 12,” he said. “Everybody is disappointed that we lost on Saturday, but if you hold it against the start of the season we’ve had, then that puts it into context.
“We take it on the chin because we’re disappointed, but the boys have been brilliant since I came in.
“It would be disrespectful to the young boys who have come in to say that’s been the issue. As I said before, we’ve had to throw them in when some of them might not be ready for it, that’s just the stage we’re at.
“Saturday was just an off-day for too many players, we know that, but you learn more in a defeat like that about everybody, and we include ourselves in that. We’ve learned a lot, and it’s about making sure we’re right for the Arbroath game.”
Smith is hoping that a break from the league, and a rare opportunity to go into a match as underdogs, will allow his players to play without pressure this Saturday.
“It’s a game where the pressure is on them,” he said. “We’ve got nothing to lose really.
“We want to get through in the cup, but when it comes down to it, they are the ones expected to win given they are top of the Championship at the moment. We want to give a good account of ourselves but given the injury situation it’s a very difficult game.”