Gary Locke can gain breathing space with victory over Hearts

Raith Rovers manager Gary Locke
Raith Rovers manager Gary Locke
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Raith Rovers manager Gary Locke is hoping to ease the pressure on himself by knocking his beloved Hearts out of the Scottish Cup.

The former Jam Tarts player, coach and boss has found himself under fire in recent weeks after a nine-game run without a win and only three goals scored.

With their Championship play-off hopes fading fast, Locke knows he is in need of a result soon to lift the gloom around Stark’s Park. He would love that to come in the form of a shock victory against his old club in tomorrow’s fourth-round tie in Fife.

“I’m getting a wee bit of stick just now but that’s because we’ve lost our last three games,” he said. “We had quite a few draws [in the current win-less run] which weren’t ideal but we had drawn with Dunfermline, at Easter Road and against Dundee United. They’re not bad results but when you lose three it soon turns into, ‘they’ve not won for ages’. The team have not been playing too badly, but a result against Hearts would give us a massive lift.”

Hearts arrive at Stark’s Park without having kicked a competitive ball in 23 days since their defeat by Aberdeen at the end of December, but Locke isn’t banking on this working to Rovers’ advantage. However, he is hopeful that, with a big crowd and the match being screened live on television, his team will rise to the occasion and snap out of their slump.

“They can maybe come back fresh, buzzing and raring to go or they might be a wee bit off it,” said Locke. “Time will tell. We’ve got a lot of young boys and I’m saying to them that it’s a great opportunity to go and show that they can play at a better level. If we play well on the day and Hearts aren’t at their best, we feel we can get a result.”

Locke remains a Hearts supporter but no longer contributes to the Foundation of Hearts, a decision he felt he had to take for the benefit of his career after being removed as manager in May 2014.

“I used to put money in,” he said. “But obviously once I left it was difficult. When I left Hearts I felt that it was probably better that I cut all ties. At the end of the day I have to look after myself and look after my career. If I am managing another club and contributing towards Hearts, I don’t think that is right. My only focus now is Raith Rovers and doing the business at the weekend. You definitely don’t want anyone saying you have a conflict of interest. At Kilmarnock I wanted the best for them, when I played Hearts I wanted to beat them and this weekend will be no different.”