Raith Rovers’ Scottish Cup heroes get back to league business this Saturday looking to maintain the good run of form that has taken them onto the fringes of the promotion play-off race.
Rovers go into the home match against fellow cup quarter-finalists Falkirk protecting a six-game unbeaten record, while the visitors are also in excellent form, losing only one of their last 12, ironically against Raith back on December 27.
Rovers victory at the Falkirk Stadium followed a goalless draw between the sides at Stark’s Park in September and manager Grant Murray is expecting another close encounter on Saturday.
“Both games we’ve had against Falkirk this season have been difficult,” he said.
“They were on such a good run when we went to play them after Christmas that we used them as an inspiration to say, we can do this.
“We were fortunate enough to get a 1-0 win on the night which kick-started our run, and we want to continue that.
“As a team we’ve been defending well - we’ve not lost too many goals - and when we have we’ve been able to score goals ourselves to either win the game, or pull it back to get a point like we did at Easter Road.
“We’ve got that side of it right at this moment in time, it’s just up to us to continue it.”
Murray and his players were given widespread praise this week for their fantastic display at Ibrox on Sunday, but the manager is guarding against the ‘cup hangover’ that teams can often suffer after causing an upset.
“It can totally happen - but we’re in same position as Falkirk - they got through to the quarter-finals on Saturday from a difficult game against Brechin,” he said.
“Ours is looked upon as a bigger game because it was at Ibrox against Rangers - but it’s gone now.
“It was a fantastic achievement and a great feeling but that game’s behind us and we’ve got to totally focus on Saturday.”
Victory on Saturday could see Rovers close to within three points of Falkirk with a game in hand but Murray is not getting carried away by any thoughts of a challenge for fourth place.
“We’re at the back of it at the moment slowly going along but there’s no point looking too far ahead,” he said.
“We just want to focus on what we can do short-term in the games coming up.
“There’s no point saying we can do this or that, the only thing we can do is take three points from Saturday.
“That’s the biggest aim we’ve got.”
Rovers good form has coincided with the arrival of Maurice Malpas as director of football and while he has played a background role in first team affairs, Murray explained that the new man has been a significant help behind the scenes.
“Maurice has been great,” he said. “He’s come in and done what we asked him to do.
“He brings a different voice, and different ideas - an opinion - and it helps.
“When Paul Smith was here there was three of us to have an input, then I make a decision.
“When Paul left we were down to two - which is fine - but there’s been spells when Laurie’s playing and stuff like that.
“To have someone else in with that experience and being able to help in different areas is great.
“It’s benefiting all of us at this moment in time, and at the end of the day, getting results is the most important thing at any football club.”
Rovers’ preparations for the weekend were dealt a blown when Dale Carrick’s loan spell from Hearts came to a premature end following a hamstring injury picked up at Ibrox.
“Dale has gone back to Hearts,” Murray confirmed. “He missed the early part of season through a similar injury so it’s very disappointing for the lad.”
Murray did not feel that the challenge from Lee McCulloch late in the first half, which saw the Rangers captain hammered with a two-game ban by the SFA this week for stamping, had anything to do with Carrick’s injury.
“It wasn’t a great challenge, but I don’t think it had any bearing on the injury Dale picked up,” Murray stressed. “It was just something that made his hamstring twinge again.”
Murray could now dip back into the loan market to bolster his striking options.
“We’re weighing up the situation at the minute,” he said.
“With Calum (Elliot) out, it leaves us with two out and out strikers at the club.
“The last thing we would want is for one of them to pick up an injury and we’re down to one.
“If the opportunity is there we’ll have a look about, but at this moment in time it’s difficult.
“Players have got to be right to come to club and add a bit competition, but sometimes those players aren’t available.”
Monday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final draw saw Rovers handed a tough away tie at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The ties are scheduled to be played on the weekend of March 7-8.