League One will see the first Fife Derby of the season as East Fife entertain Raith Rovers at New Bayview on Saturday, with both sides raring to go.
Speaking on Thursday morning before training, Barry Smith, sad of his full-time side:
“The boys have done very well; we are scoring goals, we are tight at the back but we also know that there are things we can work on and get better at. We always encouraging the team to try progress and I feel we are certainly progressing in the right direction. We just want to win every game – no matter if they are at home or away – the fact we are winning and scoring goals at home is great as the fans are coming out and giving us their backing and we are just happy to be rewarding them for all the support they have shown the boys.”
Smith, who joined Raith from Saturday’s opposition in the summer will know exactly what to expect when he arrives in Methil.
“A very tough game: Darren [Young – East Fife manager] will have them well organised; defensively they will be compact, so, we know we will have to work hard to break them down but we feel on our day, we have the right players who can go and do that for us.”
With Raith training on astroturf every day at the Michael Woods Centre, there are “no excuses” to be made around the new playing surface at New Bayview, insists Smith..
“We don’t make excuses. We have got to play on all types of surfaces – whether it be grass or synthetic – so we just need to deal with that and not make any excuses about it.”
“Every game we have played so far has been tough,” continues the 43-year-old. “This match will be no different. Yes, this is a Derby match but we haven’t treated it any differently – we give every team our respect but we still want to, and will, go out there looking to win the match. Our attitude won’t change, we just need to make sure we do things properly, to give ourselves the best chance of picking up three points on Saturday.”
With Player/Coach Kevin Cuthbert and stand-in goalkeeper Aaron Lennox injured, teenager Rory Brian stepped in last week against Forfar. Experienced goalkeeper Graeme Smith has been recruited this week to bolster the options available to Smith in that position.
“We only had one fit keeper on the books so we had to bring in someone else to make sure we had cover on the bench. It is now good competition for both of them. Last week was a good game for Rory to play in as they went down to 10-men so he didn’t have too much to do but what he did have to do, he did well. He is a very good option and while he still has a lot to learn, he has done himself no harm with his performance last weekend. Aaron [Lennox] went to see a specialist this week so he will be out for a while.”
“We are happy with the way the team is shaping up,” concludes Smith. “They are constantly progressing and that is the main thing – they need to strive to always do better and what I have seen so far, we are doing really good and it is pleasing for myself and the rest of the coaching staff to see that.”
Fifers gaffer Darren Young also spoke to jordanburtfootball.com on Thursday morning.
“We have been happy with results; I think we can still do better performance wise but we are improving with each and every game. We got a great three points at home last time out against Alloa – it is always good to get your home form right. Then, we produced another great, albeit hard-fought, performance and while they felt they didn’t take their chances, we did while also getting a little bit of luck: we could’ve won the game more comfortably, in my eyes. We have had a good week – albeit we lost the Peterhead game where we chopped and changes things about. I am pleased with the chances we have created in the past two or three matches. Everything is coming along nicely now – we are getting boys back; a couple even managed to get minutes in a bounce game on Tuesday night so everyone is getting closer to full fitness.”
After losing to Stranraer on the opening day, the Fife have picked up two wins to see themselves sit just one point behind their Derby rivals heading into Saturday’s encounter.
“If you can get the first goal, you have quite a high percentage chance of winning as you then have something to hold onto while you are also forcing the opposition to come out and attack you which leaves spaces at the back. We have no complaints, the goals we have lost we know we can do better with and going forward it is just about making sure that we take our chances when it comes. We have got guys that can come in and guys that we can rest now that we have most players back. It gives me a lot more options and I am enjoying that! It helps if you can keep the majority – 9 or 10 players – in the starting line-up each week, then it is great for continuity but other variables such as form, fitness and injury come into the equation when picking a team, so, for me, if the guys are doing well, performing well and getting the results we need on a Saturday then it’ll be them who keep the jersey for the following week (unless we feel someone is needing a rest or we feel someone’s form isn’t quite at it). Some of the boys are still quite short [fitness-wise] to even make the bench yet, but, they are getting there slowly but surely. Kevin Smith is still a wee bit away while [Jonathan] Page and [Chris] Kane played in the bounce game so it is now just about them topping up their fitness so they are capable of playing in first-team matches.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s match, the former Dunfermline midfielder said:
“You would expect it to be [the toughest match of the league season to date]. Raith are a full-time side, it is a Derby game where every single person will be up for it. They have come down a division but they have a lot of good players and guys that have consistently played in the Championship or above in their careers, so, we know how tough it is going to be. We know what we are coming up against, and with us being at home and also that it is a Derby, I feel it evens everything out in the end. Any game at home, we expect to go out there and win. We have got a game-plan; no matter who it is we face, we know how we want to play. On paper, they have a bigger budget and are a full-time team so a rightly favourites but we are confident and we feel we can push them all the way – we have shown against Dunfermline at home and Hearts away that we can compete with these sides, especially on the fitness side of things.”
With players coming back from injury \and the squad settling into their roles, should the East Fife fans expect any more transfer activity?
“You can’t ever rule anything out – but, obviously, our budget will see to that side of things. The fact we have got these guys coming back, it is up to these players to try and fight their way back in and win the jersey, but, of course if a player comes up we feel can improve matters then we will definitely try and get take that opportunity but, again, it all comes down to budget. If you have used all of your budget up, it’d be about trying to move players on who maybe aren’t happy at not playing, which is another situation I would need to deal with.”
“Every game is hard: if you go through the season and pick up six points from every nine available then come the end of the season, you will be up there, so, of course it has been a good start as we have had two tough away games and a tough home game too but there is still a long way to go and we can only take things game-by-game and see how things go.”
With tickets still on sale, Young hopes for a large and vociferous home support come 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
“The fans will know themselves that they can be a twelfth man. The more punters we can get through the door, the better, but not just for us on the playing side but for the club as a whole, toi. Hopefully it is a great day with lots of goals but ending in three points for ourselves to mark a great victory.”