BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Ray McKinnon has hailed the capture of former Hamilton Accies and Dinamo Bucharest striker Joel Thomas as Raith Rovers up the ante in their bid for a shot at promotion.
The Kirkcaldy outfit were left short in attack following the departures of Jon Daly and Craig Wighton in January but have strengthened in recent weeks as they seek to hang on to their current fourth place in the Championship.
Thomas has penned a short-term deal to join the recent recruits of Rangers youngster Ryan Hardie, who is to remain at Raith for the rest of the season, Leicester City marksman Harry Panayiotou and Hamilton Accies attacker Louis Longridge, all on loan, as well as freed Dundee United winger Aidan Connolly.
The Frenchman made his debut for Rovers in Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat to Rangers, just hours after signing for the club, and McKinnon has backed the 28-year-old to make an impression at Stark’s Park.
With Mark Stewart struggling with a calf problem that is preventing him from training between games, McKinnon said: “Joel did well when he came on against Rangers.
“He’s a big unit and he was knocking people off the ball and retaining possession for us.
“That’s a big thing for us, retaining the ball, and he did okay at that.
“Mostly he was doing it around the half-way line, but I would love to see him doing that around the edge of the box.
“He’ll be an asset and he gives us something different. It’s a chance for him, if he comes in and does well.”
In addition to adding new faces to his squad, McKinnon has been busy planning for next season, with new deals already finalised with the likes of Kyle Benedictus, Lewis Toshney and David Bates, and further agreements expected to be completed with Jason Thomson and Iain Davidson.
And the Fifers are celebrating after youngster Lewis Vaughan signed a one-year contract extension to stay at Stark’s Park next season.
The 20-year-old has been sidelined for almost the entire campaign after rupturing his cruciate knee ligament on August 1 but is closing in on a possible first-team comeback next month.
The next target for McKinnon as he looks ahead to next term is goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert.
He added: “That’s Lewis all done now, which is great news, and now I’m going to speak to Cat and try and get him tied up.”