After scoring a 94th-minute winner to help Raith Rovers equal two long-standing records, Jason Thomson is quite open about his club’s targets this season. They are second in the Championship and aim to be heavily involved in the play-offs come next May.
The club captain is convinced Rangers will win the title and automatic promotion, but an outstanding start has seen Raith set standards high under new manager Ray McKinnon.
Thomson’s goal deep in stoppage-time secured a 2-1 win over Morton at Stark’s Park on Saturday. The full-back forced the ball over the line to maintain a 100 per cent home record. Raith have won their first seven home matches in all competitions for the first time since 1907, and have managed five home league wins for the first time since 1933.
“It would be stupid for me to say we aren’t looking for a play-off place now, given we’re second in the league after the first quarter,” Thomson told the Evening News. “We’re in with a great chance with the start we’ve had. It is a long season, but I’m not going to sit here and say we don’t fancy ourselves for a play-off place.
“Five or six teams will be thinking the same as us, though. I’m sure Falkirk, Queen of the South, Hibs, Dumbarton and even St Mirren will be looking at the same kind of target.
“It’s been a decent start for us. We aren’t getting carried away at the moment but it’s good to look at the league table at the moment. We’re chuffed but we aren’t looking too far ahead. We’ve been in this position before and we know things can change quickly.”
Just as they did in Kirkcaldy over the summer. Thomson is one of only a handful of first-team players to survive the managerial change after McKinnon left Brechin City to replace Grant Murray. Players with Premeirship experience arrived in the shape of Jon Daly, Kyle Benedictus, Iain Davidson and, most recently, the former Hibs midfielder Scott Robertson.
“If you look at the team from last season, there aren’t many of us who survived the changeover,” said Thomson. “It’s almost a completely new team and it’s taken a wee while to gel. With the player who have come in, we’re building up a great team spirit and it’s showing on the park.
“I’ve seen bits and pieces about the records we’ve equalled, but we’re playing with a confidence now. Even personally, I feel more confident going into games. I’ve probably not had that in my time at Raith.
“To be honest, I don’t think we’ve had one chat about setting targets. The manager just came in during the summer and said he wanted us to work hard. We didn’t set any targets but we knew in recent weeks that, if we kept winning, we’d be up the right end of the league. We’ve managed to do that.”
Turning Stark’s Park into something of a cauldron for visiting teams is behind the early-season prosperity. “The home form is certainly much better and we’re looking more solid as a team. We aren’t conceding as many goals as last season. We’ve worked on things so that everyone knows their jobs. The gaffer demands hard work and you can see he’s got all the boys working for them.
“We’ve played everyone once in the league now and there’s not much between us. I think everyone knows Rangers are probably going to win the league. We lost 5-0 against them and that was disappointing, but every other game has been tight. It’s a good sign for us that we’re winning these tight games. We’re maybe doing things we didn’t do before.
“If you’re going to have a successful season, then nicking a goal late in a tight game to get a win is going to help a lot. We’ve managed to do that a few times and scored late on in games. Previously, these were games we maybe drew or lost.”
Thomson got in on the act himself at the weekend, but does he worry Raith’s promising run might draw unwanted attention towards his manager?
“The gaffer did well at Brechin and that’s why he’s got the job at Raith Rovers. He’s started the season well, but it’s out of my power if other teams look at him. If he wanted to move on then it would be up to him. At the moment, I’m pretty sure he’s fully concentrated on Raith Rovers.”