BY IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press
Ray McKinnon insists taking on Celtic was Raith’s equivalent of a big Champions League night – now he’s hopeful they don’t suffer a ‘European hangover’.
Rovers revelled in their League Cup clash with the holders and only had their hopes of a giant-killing act extinguished when Stefan Johansen netted the second of Celtic’s 2-0 victory just three minutes from time.
Any disappointment at exiting the cup was matched with pride at the way the Fifers held their own for the much of the tie against the Scottish champions in their own backyard.
McKinnon said: “It doesn’t get any harder than going to Parkhead, does it? They were playing Champions League earlier in the season, Europa League right now and they’ve got an unbelievable squad.
“I thought the boys were great and did everything we wanted them to do. What a response we got and we had them rocking for 15 or 20 minutes at the end there.
“The boys are buzzing and so they should be, because there’s not many teams go there and play like that.”
However, back at their Glenrothes training base just hours after the full-time whistle, McKinnon was also quick to issue a warning that his players cannot afford the kind of domestic dip so often suffered by clubs returning from the highs of European competition.
The Stark’s Park boss, whose side host Dumbarton tomorrow, added: “We got nothing out of the game and it’s gone, and we need to concentrate on Saturday now.
“We need to respond, we make sure we’ve got good legs and energy, because it will be a tough, tough game on Saturday.
“We also need to make sure we’re mentally back tuned in, because itt’s difficult after you’ve played Celtic to recreate that intensity, that focus and that desire.
“We need to make sure we’ve got that, because we could quite easily go out and think ‘it’s just Dumbarton’ and we’ll get caught.
“This is a massive game for us. You see how many teams struggle after a midweek game, especially in the Champions League.
“Well, that was like Champions League for us. That was us playing the best team in Scotland by a mile.
“So we need to make sure we bounce back from that. That’s why we had them all back in training on Thursday morning.
“We did brilliant and if we can keep that intensity and that focus and that desire, we’ll be okay.”