BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
RAY McKinnon has backed James Craigen to handle the pressure of facing Falkirk tomorrow as Raith Rovers seek to put a dent in the Bairns’ promotion hopes.
Craigen has penned a pre-contract to join Falkirk in the summer but could help ensure his future employers fail in their quest for a Premiership place next season.
A victory for Raith would harm Falkirk’s chances of finishing in the coveted runners-up spot in the Championship and could result in the pair going head to head in the play-off quarter-finals.
There is no doubt that Craigen would prefer to be playing top-flight football next season with Peter Houston’s side.
However, after holding talks with the former Partick Thistle player, McKinnon insists he has no qualms about placing Craigen at the heart of an unenviable situation tomorrow – and again if the teams do face each other in the play-offs.
McKinnon said: “We spoke to him specifically about coming up against Falkirk because it’s going to be either Falkirk or Hibs in the play-offs.
“I said I trust him to go out and give everything and he was the same.
“His reputation is on the line as well. If he downs tools and anybody asks me about him I would tell them he had downed tools.
“But he’s not (done that). He’s a good kid, he works hard and he’s done well, and a lot of credit goes to him for that.”
McKinnon insists it would not take long to work out if his confidence was misplaced should Craigen feature tomorrow.
He added: “I would know within 10 minutes if he wasn’t playing the way we wanted him to play, and we’ve spoken about that.
“He’d be embarrassed if I played him and we took him off after 15 minutes. That’s what he’s got to think about.
“But I wouldn’t have a problem playing James, whatsoever.
“I think James will give everything for us, whether it’s against Falkirk or Hibs, because he’s got his reputation to think about.
“He’s been a model pro for us. He’s a fit boy, he’s scored nine goals and had a great season, and he wants to go out on a high.”
Raith have so far failed to beat Falkirk in three league games this season, drawing once and losing narrowly in the other two encounters.
A victory on this occasion, so close to a possible play-off clash, would undoubtedly give the Stark’s Park men a boost as they bid to belie their position as dark horses in the promotion race.
However, McKinnon is adamant he is not seeking to lay down a marker in tomorrow’s meeting.
He commented: “To be honest, if we beat them in the play-offs that’s all that is important.
“Saturday’s result is unimportant to me. It’s about the performance.
“If we win the game, and we’re going out to win the game, it will have no bearing on the play-offs – for them or us.
“The play-offs will be a different animal.”