Top of the table Raith relish return of the Fife derby

Raith players celebrate Declan McManus' opening goal against St Mirren last Saturday. Pic: FPA
Raith players celebrate Declan McManus' opening goal against St Mirren last Saturday. Pic: FPA

The eagerly anticipated first Fife derby of the season - and the first in over three years - takes place at Stark’s Park this Saturday.

A cracking match is in prospect as top-of-the-table Raith Rovers host newly promoted Dunfermline Athletic in the first meeting between the sides since March 2013.

It will be Raith boss Gary Locke’s first taste of the fixture having experienced the Edinburgh derby many times throughout his career at Hearts, both as player and manager.

“I’ve been involved in big derby games before so I know what they are all about,” Locke told the Press.

“It’s a game everyone is looking forward to and hopefully we can put in a similar type of performance to our first two games of the season.

“Derby games are always hectic, you don’t get much time on the ball, so we’ve got to make sure that, when we do get the ball, we’re composed and we use it properly - and I’m pretty confident we can do that.”

The rivalry carries added spice for Locke as he previously worked under Pars boss Alan Johnston at Kilmarnock, and the pair remain close friends.

“I know Alan well - I was his assistant at Kilmarnock and we go back a long way,” Locke said.

“We are close but all that goes out the window for 90 mintues on Saturday,. After it we’ll shake hands and have a beer together.”

After suffering administration and relegation in 2013, Dunfermline have spent the last three seasons in League One, before eventually winning the title at the third attempt last term.

However, Locke expects the East End Park side to be a force to be reckoned with in their first season back in the Championship.

“One thing about Alan - he always attracts good players and builds good teams,” he said. “They’ve signed a lot of Premier League expeirence, and players who can hurt you.

“Joe Cardle, who is very familiar with Raith fans, is a match winner and Gavin Reilly on loan from Hearts up front is a handful.

“They’ve got quality right throughout their team and we know we’ll have to be at our very best to get anything out the game.”

Raith will go into the match on a high as Championship leaders after opening their campaign with back-to-back wins over Ayr United and St Mirren.

“I’m pleased that we’re getting a lot of positivity from the supporters because they are the most important people at the club,” he said.

“As me and Darren (Jackson) have said all along, we’re not getting carried away, but one thing I try to do as a manager is build teams that will entertain the supporters.

“We might not win every week, but we will try to have a go - and so far, so good.

“But we know we’re facing a really difficult team this weekend and it will be another really tough game.”

Locke’s only major concern ahead of the fixture is in the injury department with Iain Davidson, Craig Barr and Scott Robertson all ruled out, and goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert rated 50-50.

“The only thing I’m unhappy about at the minute is that the bench is imbalanced because we don’t have defensive cover,” he said.

“It’s not through anybody’s fault, it’s just becuase we’ve got injuries to three more defensive-minded players.

“When it went 3-1 on Saturday I would’ve liked to have had the option to put on a more defensive player and shut up shop. The boys we put on are all attack minded and want to score goals.

“We just need to get these lads back fit again. It’s frustrating because they are three of the most experienced players in the squad, but injuries are part and parcel of the game.

“You just have to get on with it.”

Raith will be aiming to stay ahead of Hibs.

“It’s important that we’ve got off to good start - but we’ve not achieved anything,” he said.

“I’ve been in football long enough to know things can quickly turn and if you look at the fixtures coming up we’ve got really tough games.

“If you lose two or three on the bounce you’re back to being hopeless again, so we’ve got to remain grounded.

“But if we play like we have in the last two games, and everyone sticks together and we get the support we’re getting, then we’ll give ourselves a chance.

“One of most important things about this club is the vibes myself and Darren have got here - it’s all very much together, and that’s only way we’ll achieve any success.”

Raith fans are being urged to buy their Fife derby tickets before Saturday.

The match against Dunfermline Athletic is all-ticket and there will be no cash turnstiles on the day, however, the Press understands that tickets will be made available from the office window in the lead up to kick-off.

With such a scenario likely to generate large queues as kick-off approaches, fans are encouraged to snap them up beforehand.

Tickets are available from 9.00 a.m until 4.00 p.m today and tomorrow (Friday) or supporters can prepay over the phone by calling 01592 263514 option 6, for express collection on matchday.

Fans can also buy tickets online via the club shop.

Match tickets are priced £20 for adults and £10 for concessions (Under 16 / Over 65 / Disabled).