BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
GARY LOCKE is adamant Ryan Stevenson can be the answer to Raith Rovers’ goal-scoring woes after insisting the former Hearts star is far from over the hill.
Stevenson, 32, joined Rovers just hours before Monday afternoon’s 2-0 Fife derby defeat against Dunfermline, making a quick-fire debut as a second-half substitute.
The bustling attacker was a pivotal figure for the Jambos during Locke’s tenure as boss at Tynecastle, scoring eight goals in 29 appearances – including a dramatic winner in a 1-0 triumph over Hibernian at Easter Road.
Nevertheless, the Stark’s Park boss is adamant Stevenson’s arrival is anything but an old pal’s act – and firmly believes he will provide the physicality and clinical touch Raith have been lacking during their recent dry spell.
Rovers have not won since October and have found the net just twice in their last seven fixtures ahead of their encounter with Falkirk this weekend.
Locke said: “Ryan is only 32 so I’ve got no doubt that he still has plenty to give, that is why I have brought him here.
“He has attributes and qualities that are different to what we have here. We have been lacking a target man during the first half of the season, someone who gives us that option to get the ball forward.
“Ryan can hold the ball up, link the play and, importantly, he has goals in him. That is the only thing I have been disappointed in: our lack of goals. Our general play has been good, so if we keep creating the chances, hopefully we will take them.”
Stevenson’s arrival was supplemented by fellow striker Ryan Hardie joining on loan from Rangers for the rest of the season.
Despite an underwhelming first half of the campaign at St Mirren, scoring two in 18 outings, Hardie enjoyed a profitable stint with Rovers last term and his return has been welcomed by supporters.
With balancing the budget a constant challenge, Locke does not envisage much more business from the Kirkcaldy club this January, aside from temporary departures.
Locke does, however, hope to secure extensions to the loans of Rangers duo Scott Roberts and Jordan Thompson, who could potentially play their final games for the club against the Bairns on Saturday.
He added: “I’m hopeful we can get something sorted. We are talking to Rangers and I think it has been a great move for everyone involved.
“The boys are getting game time, are enjoying the experience of first-team football, and we are delighted with how they have performed. We are looking to come to some sort of arrangement.
“The positive thing for me is that the boys want to stay here. That is a good start. This would be their last game this weekend, so we’ll be looking to tie something up after that and I know Eric [Drysdale, chief executive] is working very hard on it.”