BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
IAIN DAVIDSON admits he is ready to see the fiery side of Gary Locke when Hibernian visit Stark’s Park this afternoon.
The Raith Rovers boss is a boyhood Hearts supporter and lived the dream by emerging through the club’s youth ranks before captaining, coaching and managing the Tynecastle outfit.
Similarly, there is a healthy contingent of former Gorgie stars in the Raith ranks, including double-Scottish Cup winner Rudi Skacel, Kevin McHattie, on-loan Liam Smith and skipper Jason Thomson.
Locke has been keen to play down the notion that today’s visit of Hibs is renewal of Edinburgh rivalries, nevertheless Davidson expects extra intensity from a man who takes great joy in getting the better of the Hibees.
Davidson said: “I’m ready to see a different side of the gaffer on Saturday!
“He has been quite light-hearted with the boys since coming in, but we all know that he is a big Hearts man and Rudi [Skacel] is a bit of a Hearts legend – two Scottish Cups isn’t bad.
“We’ve got Kevin in there who also played for Hearts, so I expect a bit of banter from those lads as kick-off approaches. They’ll maybe be looking to gee us up a bit more as they’ll not fancy losing to Hibs.
“I’m sure the gaffer and Rudi will get a bit of stick from the away fans but they can handle that.”
The mouth-watering clash in Fife is a re-run of last season’s Championship playoff quarter-final between the sides which saw Raith run out 1-0 winners on a raucous night in Kirkcaldy.
Harry Panayiotou’s late winner ultimately counted for nothing as Hibs blew away Ray McKinnon’s charges with two early goals in the return leg in the capital to progress.
However, those meetings with Hibs at Stark’s Park last term – with the sides sharing two victories apiece – were among the highlights of Davidson’s campaign last season, and he can’t wait to renew hostilities.
He continued: “We can take positivity from getting couple of really good results against them last year. We have a nucleus of the same team and, although they have changed a bit, we’ll be out to replicate those good performances.
“The playoff against them last season was great, no-one expected us to be in the top four, let alone run Hibs so close, but Ray [McKinnon] and the boys did really well.
“All the games against them last year were brilliant – great atmospheres and a real edge to the match – and hopefully we can come out on top of another occasion like that.
“It’s a massive game against the undoubted favourites for the league. That’s a brilliant test for us, while all the pressure is on them.”
Davidson acknowledges the recent international hiatus provided a perfect opportunity to consider Raith’s “report card” under new boss Gary Locke, with a blistering start to the season being followed by a recent run of four defeats in five.
“However, we are still sitting pretty. We have been in the top four, and have been all season, and if that’s the case at the end of the season then we’ll take that all day long.
“I’d say the report card is good at the moment and it’s a positive sign that the lads feel like we can do even better.”
Not that Hibs have been in imperious form of late, failing to win any of their last four fixtures under an increasingly exacerbated Neil Lennon. All in all, it leaves both sides desperate for a welcome three points.
The former Dundee man added: “The last couple of results have not been what Hibs or Neil Lennon would have expected, hopefully we can take advantage of any fragility that might be there.
“When you are Hibs, in the Championship, there is a massive pressure there. I have a lot of respect for them and their players, but we will determined to make it five games without a win for Hibs by the full-time whistle!”