BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Raith Rovers manager Ray McKinnon believes Jon Daly is destined to bow out of senior football in style against Hibernian as the towering striker prepares to hang up his boots this weekend.
The 32-year-old will officially join Hearts next week as under-20s coach, ending a 16-year playing career which has seen him turn out for the likes of Hartlepool, Stockport, Dundee United and Rangers.
Daly, a Scottish Cup winner with United in 2010, joined Rovers in August following his release by the Gers and has made 18 appearances, with his only goal coming in a 2-1 defeat against the Hibees in October.
With his switch to Tynecastle imminent, McKinnon reckons it could be written in the stars for the big Irishman to net the winning goal against the Jambos’ fierce city rivals.
But regardless of Daly’s display in tomorrow’s fourth round clash at Stark’s Park, McKinnon has nothing but praise for the departing striking and insists it has been a privilege to work with him.
“The big man will score against Hibs, just before going to Hearts – it’s a certainty,” laughed the Rovers boss. “He’ll end up getting the winner!
“Nobody can argue with Jon’s career. He’s done well wherever he’s been and is a model professional. At 32, he has trained fantastically, been superb in the dressing room and helped the young boys at this club immensely.
“I can understand why [Hearts director of football] Craig Levein wants to take him to Hearts because he will be fantastic for the under-20s.
“I worked with him on his ‘B’ License and saw the dedication he put into his coaching badges. I’m sure he will be just as successful as a coach as he was as a player because he has that drive and dedication you need.
“He’s a top boy and it his been an absolute pleasure to work with him.”
While McKinnon has faith in Daly to nick a goal for Rovers, his side will also need to find a way to tame Jason Cummings, who has tormented the Fifers this term.
The 20-year-old scored in all three of Hibs’ victories against Raith this season, with his penalty kick – which he won himself – proving the difference between the sides in a 1-0 win for the Hibees last week.
Nevertheless, McKinnon has faith that key defender Kyle Benedictus, who gave away that spot-kick at Easter Road, will shackle Cummings this time.
He continued: “We have played them three times and there has been nothing between us. Jason Cummings has been the difference.
“He did nothing in the game on Saturday but won a penalty and scored. I watched the game back and Hibs hardly created anything, [Kevin] Cuthbert had one save to make.
“[Kyle] Benedictus and [Matthew] Bates had Jason Cummings in their pockets the whole game, then one ball comes in and, as we are pushing up the park, Cummings gets in behind.
“To be fair to Benny [Benedictus], he gets back, but the thing he doesn’t do right is stay on his feet. It’s one wee mistake, because for 99 per cent of the game he was outstanding.
“I want the same performance in Saturday but, when you’re in the box, stay on your feet, don’t give them anything. I’ve got every confidence in Benny. He’ll be the man to take care of Cummings on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, McKinnon has confirmed that Joel Thomas is currently training with Rovers, but no deal is imminent for the former Hamilton striker.
The club are, however, in talks with two Ladbrokes Premiership strikers with a view to securing attacking reinforcements on loan – ideally before Saturday’s fixture.