BY IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press
They may have exited the cup on the end of a bitterly disappointing defeat, but Rory McKeown insists Raith Rovers can take huge confidence from their encounter with Celtic when they host Dumbarton today.
The former Kilmarnock full-back reckons Rovers were a match for Celtic for long spells of Wednesday’s League Cup tie and only when Stefan Johansen made it 2-0 three minutes from time were the Fifers’ hopes of a shock killed off.
Manager Ray McKinnon has expressed fears his players could suffer a hangover from the highs of facing the Scottish champions in their own back yard when they get back to the more mundane job of league business this afternoon.
However, 22-year-old McKeown believes the experience has only served to bolster the Stark’s Park side’s belief they have what it takes to enjoy a successful season.
The Northern Ireland under-21 cap said: “I thought we were right in the game until they bagged their second goal. They did us on the counter-attack with a bit of a sucker punch. It was the 87th minute and I think that says it all.
“We competed for 87 minutes and we can definitely take a lot of confidence from that.
“The gaffer set out a game plan and we stuck to it, and we know we can do it; we’re not afraid of anyone.
“The game this weekend is not going to be the same type of game as against Celtic, but we’re going to go into it with every confidence that we can beat Dumbarton.
“We’re completely focused on the league. We can’t go in with any other attitude, because if we do we’ll lose.”
Raith’s display at Parkhead was another boost to morale following an impressive opening to life under new manager Ray McKinnon.
Aside from a shock Petrofac Training Cup defeat to Stenhousemuir, the Kirkcaldy outfit’s defeats so far have come away from home against Rangers, Hibs and, after going down to 10 men, Falkirk.
Last Friday’s 2-1 victory over St Mirren may have been their first league success on the road but they have won all five fixtures at Stark’s Park, with the concession of just one goal – and that came against Premiership side Hamilton Accies in the League Cup.
All in all, the start they have made to the campaign has bolstered belief they are on the right tracks.
McKeown added: “Other than Celtic, Hibs and Rangers, and Falkirk with a man down, we’ve beaten everyone else. We can definitely compete with everyone in this league.
“We’re also trying to defend a 100 per cent home record, which also includes a win against a Premiership team in Hamilton as well. We’re confident at home just now.
“It’s funny because last season we were terrible at home and better away, and this season it seems to be the other way around. It’s nice and the fans have been a lot better this season. We’ve heard them and we appreciate them.”