Raith Rovers have to become much more “streetwise” and better at the “fundamentals of football” if they are to get back on the winning trail, said manager John Hughes.
But there is no greater incentive do that than a local derby.
And, after a spirit-sapping defeat last Saturday at Falkirk, Raith head for East End Park to face Dunfermline, in a determined bid to stop themselves sinking further into the relegation swamp.
The prizes have been equally shared in league meetings between the two so far this season, with one 2-0 victory apiece and the other game a scoreless draw – ironically, on Guy Fawkes Night.
Boss Hughes said he rates Dunfermline very highly and was most impressed when seeing them hammer Dumbarton 5-1 last month.
But he believes there’s more to come from his own squad and said: “We are more than capable of beating Dunfermline.”
Hughes said: “I saw them taking Dumbarton for five and I was very, very impressed. We are going to have to be at our best if we want to go and get something out of the match.
“Dunfermline have picked themselves up – they’re a good side.
“Their league position shows they are probably a better side than us. But that does not mean to say if we hit top form – because I still think there’s more to come from us – and we get it right, it could be a right good game.”
Hughes added: “I don’t expect there will be too much in it – but we need to defend better than we did on Saturday.”
He reckoned the Pars’ approach and desire to do well would be just the same as Raith’s.
“I have been involved in these games (derbies) – make sure you don’t get caught up in it, and just go and play the game,” he said. “Look after the process and the rest takes care of itself.
“Hopefully, as the week goes on, we’ll get one or two back on the training pitch and prepare them properly to give them the best chance to go and win it.
“I know what it means to supporters as well in all derby matches – they want the bragging rights.
“You’re not just out there playing for yourself and your team – you’re playing for your supporters to give them the bragging rights.”
Rovers will have to manage for the rest of the season without Ross Callachan, who left the field at Falkirk prematurely with what turned out to be a broken arm.
“He will be a massive miss,” said Hughes. “One thing about Cal is you know what you are getting. You can hang your hat on him; you get the same every week.
“He sets a great template and a great standard to it. He’s a winner. For a young guy, I think he has a big future ahead of him.”
The squad was carrying a lot of injuries at present – Jason Thomson being another – and Hughes could only hope that a few of them would receive a clean bill of health at the end of the week.
Hughes wants to go to East End Park and “pick-up that nuch-needed win” – but he knows improvements are needed.
“Out ball retention needs to be better and our hold-up play needs to be better,” he said.
“We have to be a lot more streetwise in terms of fundamentals we do.
“We bring stuff on top of us and, if you keep doing that and keep doing the wrong stuff, then it’s inevitable what’s going to happen. So we need to be better at the fundamentals of football.”
Hughes added: “We can’t sit back and feel sorry for ourselves – we know what’s in front of us. It’s in our hands and we need to get back to winning ways.
“I am honest enough to say you can see the tension and trepidation and a bit of a lack of confidence in their game, but we just need to go and deal with that and go and try to play with that free spirit. If we can do that, we’ll be in the match.”
Hughes said since his arrival – apart from the Dumbarton match, which was “a shambles” – Raith had always been in the game.
“I think my frustration is I still think there’s a lot more to come, but the only way it will come is for us to keep believing in each other, and hopefully that will be the case on Saturday.
Hughes said Raith had not been too far away on Saturday but had lost a really poor goal, having put so much effort into the game.
“It was a really soft goal, which could have been avoided. But, saying that, we didn’t play as well as we did in the first half, so we need to be better on the ball.
“If we can do that right, it gives us a chance to play the game in the other team’s half. But we never did that, so we were under the cosh a wee bit in the second half. “
“There wasn’t too much between the teams but Falkirk were the better team in the second half, for those reasons.”
Hughes said the squad was nursing injuries all the way through, with around nine players on the casualty list. However, he was delighted with Kevin McHattie’s return and said he acquitted himself very well on Saturday.