BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Ray McKinnon insists the capture of highly-rated Rangers youngster Ryan Hardie can boost Raith Rovers as they push for a promotion play-off slot.
The 18-year-old trained with Raith yesterday after the clubs agreed an initial one-month loan spell, despite the news that Rangers striker Martyn Waghorn could miss the next two months with a knee injury.
Rovers remain hopeful of hanging on to the Scotland under-19 internationalist for the remainder of the season as the Govan outfit seek to get one of their rising stars some first-team experience.
The teenager, who is highly thought of at Ibrox, has made the starting line-up for two of his 10 appearances for Rangers and bagged a brace on his first start against Dumbarton in April last year.
McKinnon said: “He’s a very talented young player, he’s got a great goal-scoring record and he’s played for their first-team and scored for their first-team.
“He’s been on the bench plenty times there as well and he’s obviously a good player.
“He’s really well regarded at Ibrox and he’s well regarded by the Scotland national youth teams.
“He’s lightning quick, he scores goals and we only have one, recognised out-and-out striker at the club in Mark Stewart, so he gives that bit of cover there.
“Hopefully the young kid comes in, does well and scores goals and that would be a real bonus for us.”
Whilst the recruitment in recent weeks of Aiden Connolly, following his release from Dundee United, and Harry Panayiotou from Leicester City and Louis Longridge from Hamilton Accies on loan has helped plug gaps in Raith’s attacking options, the Kirkcaldy club face a huge defensive headache for tomorrow’s clash with Livingston.
Kyle Benedictus is suspended for three matches following his red card against Falkirk at the weekend, whilst Lewis Toshney and David Bates were already scheduled to sit out the visit of Livingston because of one-game bans.
With midfielder Iain Davidson set to cover in central defence, McKinnon may have to turn to returning stopper Craig Barr, who has missed the entire season so far because of injury, or field midfielder Scott Robertson as another makeshift defender.
McKinnon added: “Craig Barr is in my thoughts for Saturday. He played 90 minutes for the first time this season for the under-20s on Monday and scored.
“I don’t want to throw him to the wolves if he’s not quite ready, because Livingston are good up top, but at the same time we are down to the absolute bare bones.”