Raith Rovers boss Ray McKinnon today warned Hibs that his players won’t be happy to just have clinched a place in the Premiership play-offs, adamant they have set their sights even higher.
The Stark’s Park outfit go into their double-header against the Edinburgh club boasting the best record of any Championship team since the January transfer window closed, losing just one of their last 15 matches – away to champions Rangers.
And McKinnon believes it was the transfer business conducted during that period which prompted such an outstanding run of form, one which saw Raith clinch fourth place with plenty to spare. Restricted by a tight budget which, he claimed, has resulted in some players at the Kirkcaldy club being paid “peanuts”, McKinnon turned to the loan system to great effect, bringing in the likes of Ryan Hardie from Rangers, Harry Panayatou from Leicester, Louis Longridge from Hamilton and Aiden Connolly from Dundee United.
“We were in a good position come the turn of the year,” admitted McKinnon, “But we knew we had to strengthen. To do that, we really had to work in the loan market. That was crucial for us, to get that talent in. It has definitely helped us to push on in the second half of the season. We’ve had a few great months. The boys have done incredibly well to pick up so many points over those three months. We’re undefeated in this quarter and we’ve had a really tough run-in, six away games and just three at home – those being Rangers, Falkirk and Hibs and we were undefeated in them.
“The six away games, apart from one at Alloa, were all against teams round about us in the league, and we won five and drew one. So it’s been a great end to the season, the boys have been flying and, you know, we go into this fairly confident that we can go on.”
Although Raith were guaranteed their play-of place with three games to go, McKinnon was anxious that his players didn’t take their foot off the pedal, highlighting how Rangers have faltered since taking the title.
He said: “We didn’t want that to happen to us and fortunately the guys have bought into that, have kept pressing in every game to keep the performances up. We really wanted to go into the play-offs in good form – and there’s no doubt that we are going into them in good form is there?”
McKinnon believes all the pressure going into tomorrow night’s first leg is on Hibs given the Capital club’s greater resources, adamant his side will do their talking on the park in the wake of Jason Cummings’ claim that other clubs will be running scared of Alan Stubbs’ players.
He said: “Hibs are a big club. Let’s not beat about the bush. They’re a big, big club. They’re a Premiership club with great infrastructure, a great squad, a great manager, a big fanbase and they really should be in the top flight. For me, that’s a pressure going into the play-offs, let’s make no bones about it. Whether it affects them or not, only time will tell.”
Despite the differing resources of the three Championship play-off clubs, McKinnon believes they’d all have been happy to avoid Raith at this stage saying: “I know [Falkirk manager} Peter Houston is going on about budgets constantly.
“If we are going to talk about budgets, look at compare ours to anybody’s. It’s absolutely minimal. We’ve got boys in there on peanuts. But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad team.
“We’ve put together a good squad and, if we can play to our maximum, it’s going to be very, very tough for somebody to beat us.”