Stewart feeling the benefits of being a Raith regular

Mark Stewart celebrates a recent goal against Falkirk at Stark's Park. Credit - Fife Photo Agency -
Mark Stewart celebrates a recent goal against Falkirk at Stark's Park. Credit - Fife Photo Agency -

Raith Rovers striker Mark Stewart believes his performances have improved this season by becoming a regular starter under Ray McKinnon.

The striker was in and out of the side under Grant Murray last season, but he has started all but one of Rovers league matches so far this term, scoring six goals, and he is relishing the run in the side.

“This is the most consistent I’ve played in a while,” he told the Press.

“I’m getting 90 minutes under my belt pretty much every week and I’m really enjoying it.

“Although I think I played well last year and it was a big season for me, staying on the pitch and getting back to showing what I can do, this year I’ve definitely stepped it up a level.

“It’s probably down to more consistency in the team.

“I’ve been moved about a lot. I’ve not really been the central striker.

“I’ve played left, right and in behind but I don’t mind, as long as I’m on the pitch, and staying fit.

“Hopefully I can get my goal tally up a bit more as well.

“It’s a good group of boys to be part of this year and I’m really enjoying it.”

Stewart has set himself a target of surpassing last season’s 10-goal tally but he has no intention of changing his hard-working style, which can sometimes go unnoticed.

“What my game based on is hard work, pace and clever movement off the ball,” he said.

“You don’t have to be on the ball to make an impact, which is something I’ve always appreciated.

“You can make space for other people with good movement, and if you chase ball into corner, keep it alive you can create something for others.

“All my goals been in six yard box this year as well, and I’m pleased with that.

“To be honest I prefer them. If you score a screamer - great - but if you’re in the box it means you’re movement is really good and you’re getting on the end of stuff.

“I could probably have a few more but I’ll get that tally up - I know I will.

“My target is just to beat last year.

“I got 10 league goals which is decent return, but it could’ve been double that - I know that.

“Even though I work really hard at my finishing, I know I’m guilty of missing a lot of chances.

“There’s been a couple this season, but I don’t really let it bother me, because if I do it will affect me.

“I just try to make sure I’m there for the next chance when it comes.

“The form I showed at Falkirk scoring 17 goals in a season will come eventually - and hopefully it comes this season.”

After training with the rest of the squad on Christmas Day, Stewart was disappointed to find out that the Boxing Day match against Alloa has been postponed after heavy rain left the Stark’s Park pitch unplayable.

“It was our game in hand, and it would have been a hard game, but we were looking to put a bit of distance between ourselves and Morton,” he said.

“We just need to deal with two Hibs game, try to get something out of these games, then take care of Alloa on January 12 and hopefully we can cement our lace in top four.

“Having to come in on Christmas morning is part of the job.

“You know what you sign up for when you become a footballer player.

“I wasn’t bothered about that - I thought we should be in, as did all the boys, preparing properly for a game as normal.

“We get rewarded with other days off throughout the year so it wasn’t a big deal to me.

“I got a tap on the shoulder from my wife at half six in the morning so I’d already opened all my presents anyway!”

Stewart is hoping to maintain recent momentum by picking up a positive result from Easter Road on Saturday.

“We went through a wee patch when we were unlucky not to take something from games, but we’ve got back on track with a few good results and we’re picking up a bit of momentum again,” he said.

“We’re in fourth place with a game in hand so it’s looking good. The boys are confident.”