Victory essential as Raith look to apply Ayr pressure

Stark's Park - Kirkcaldy - Fife - 'Raith v Queens Park - Dario Zanatta celebrates'credit- Fife Photo Agency
Stark's Park - Kirkcaldy - Fife - 'Raith v Queens Park - Dario Zanatta celebrates'credit- Fife Photo Agency

Raith travel to Stranraer on Saturday with the aim of returning to the top of League One – for 24 hours at least.

Victory in the penultimate league match would see the Kirkcaldy side leapfrog Ayr United into top spot, piling the pressure onto their title rivals, who travel to Alloa on Sunday.

However, failure to collect maximum points from Stair Park would hand Ayr the chance to clinch the championship in their live BBC Alba clash the following day.

Everything is on the line, but for Raith boss Barry Smith, the focus is simply on taking the three points that would force the title decider into next week’s final games.

“We’ve just got to make sure we do our job - it’s as simple as that,” he said. “The focus is on making sure we go to Stranraer and win.

“The mood in the dressing room is very good but it’s about doing our talking on the pitch and making sure we get a result down there.

“When it comes down to it, we always knew it was going to be between ourselves and Ayr from the off, and that’s the way it’s panned out.

“It’s just making sure we do our job and we’ve got every confidence we can do that, then we’ll see what happens.”

Raith will not find it easy against a Stranraer side who have won four on the bounce, and who handed the Fifers a title lifeline by claiming a shock 2-1 victory at Somerset Park last Saturday.

The Blues also inflicted a 1-0 defeat on Rovers on their last trip to Stair Park in January, although Raith are also in decent form having collected 13 points from the last 15.

“We know what’s in front of us this weekend and that’s a better place to be in, mentally,” Smith said.

“We know we can’t take our eye off the ball. When it comes down to it, win our next two games and we finish on 77 points, which would generally win this league.

“That’s how tough a league Ayr have made it, and they’ll have had an exceptional season if they are going to win it.”

Smith opted for a new-look strike partnership in the 2-0 win over Queen’s Park on Saturday with Lewis Vaughan partnering Liam Buchanan in a pint-sized attack.

“It’s a partnership we’ve thought about from the start of the season but because of injuries, and Lewis needing to move back into midfield, we’ve never had the chance to play two of them together,” Smith said.

“We thought it could work, and it possibly forced us into making sure we passed the ball, which is a good thing, although we’ve got confidence that whoever plays we’ll try to pass the ball.

“The important thing is they play off each other. The two of them like to come short but also know the importance of trying to stretch the game.

“The two of them are switched on, which is a plus playing with two strikers like that.”

Dario Zanatta and Bobby Barr were both on the scoresheet last week, and Smith wants both wide men to be key players in the crucial remaining games.

“Dario’s done well in parts of games, but on Saturday we saw what he’s capable of on a more consistent basis,” he said. “Playing at that level, he gives us a very good option in the wider area.

“We’ve set the challenge for him, and bringing him back into the team shows we believe he can do it.

“Bobby Barr is playing some of his best stuff of season at moment and we just ask him to keep going.”

John Herron had to be replaced early in the second half after taking a knee to the back, but he has trained and will be available for selection.