Raith boss Barry Smith has backed his injury-hit squad to bounce back from the toughest week of the campaign so far.
A Rovers side missing five first team regulars crashed out of the Scottish Cup at the first hurdle on Saturday with a demoralising 3-0 defeat to Peterhead.
It put the cap on a disappointing seven days which saw the Kirkcaldy team lose three away games on the bounce, conceding eight without reply, to put a dampener on an otherwise positive start to the season.
Smith has rarely had the luxury of a fully fit squad but a recent spate of injuries to key players, combined with the sale of Ross Callachan to Hearts, has left him without seven of the first choice XI he started the season with.
And while the Raith boss refused to excuse the poor performances, he admitted that it has been a factor in the team’s recent mini-slump.
“We’ve got a good, competitive squad when everybody is fully fit, but when we’re not fully fit, it does cause problems,” Smith explained.
“We’ve had our fair share of injuries, and we’ve coped with it very well up until now, but when you’ve got five first teamers sitting in the stand for a Scottish Cup tie it’s not ideal.
“It’s easy to say that that results would’ve been different if everyone was fit. We believe we’ve got a strong squad, and we don’t want to do a disservice to the guys that came in.
“But when you’re bringing young boys in to replace senior pros, it does become difficult.
“That’s no reflection on how they have played, it’s just a big ask for them at this present time.
“In an ideal world, they would get experience by going out on loan, but we’re having to throw them into a competitive first team that wants to get promotion back to the Championship, and that’s not a good environment for them to learn.
“It would be better for them to go out and get experience but because we’ve got such a small squad, we can’t do that.”
Smith’s attempts to bring in emergency loan cover were vetoed earlier in the campaign, however, he still hopes to convince the board of the need to invest in the squad.
“I’ll keep asking the question, because I think we’re short at the moment,” he said.
“We can’t afford to be five players down. We just want everybody back fit, and if we don’t get anyone in, then we’ll just have to batten down the hatches.”
The injury situation may improve slightly for the home match against Queen’s Park this Saturday with top scorer Lewis Vaughan hoping to be back while Iain Davidson, who had been playing through a back problem, also showing signs of improvement.
However, Bobby Barr and Kevin McHattie are both set to see specialists to determine how long they will be out for, while Kyle Benedictus is still not ready to return from the broken leg suffered in early September.
It means youngsters could be called upon once again as Raith look to maintain their 100 per cent home record against the league’s bottom club.
“Whatever team we’re able to put out on Saturday will be a team capable of winning the game,” Smith said.
“The fans have got their part to play too in that there might be young boys in there that need encouragement, and if we can give them that and get behind them, as the fans have done this season, then I’m sure we’ll get a result on Saturday.”
Smith insists that his belief in his players remains unshaken by events of the past week.
“These boys work so hard through the week and everybody is disappointed with the last three results and performances,” he said.
“There’s no hiding place from that, but we’ve still got so much confidence in them.
“We’ve gone through one week where we’ve not got results we’ve wanted, but in the scheme of things over the course of the season up until now, the boys have done extremely well in difficult circumstances at times.
“It’s important they remain focused and confident in their own ability going into the next game.”