BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
MARK STEWART has hailed Declan McManus for “sparing his blushes” following the Raith Rovers star’s astonishing miss against Hearts.
However, the Stark’s Park striker is adamant he will have no problem shaking off Sunday’s sitter in time for the replay between the sides on Wednesday.
With a fraught Scottish Cup tie delicately balanced at 1-0 to the Jambos, Kevin McHattie surged into the box and delivered an inch-perfect cut-back for Stewart but, with the goal gaping, he rattled the bar from six yards.
Thankfully for the Fifers, they got their reward for a second period of sustained pressure when a sweet volley from Rudi Skacel was instinctively nodded beyond Jack Hamilton by fellow substitute McManus.
Stewart, without a goal since October 29, was among those heaving a sigh of relief – but won’t let the inexplicable moment shake his confidence, joking ‘I have one of those every season!’
“I’m just glad Deccy [McManus] has popped up at the end with a big goal, that one has spared my blushes,” smiled Stewart. “The miss is one of those moments as a striker that can happen, and it’s about how you react and respond.
“Kev [McHattie] has burst into the box and put a good ball through the defender’s legs and it has bobbled up, hit my leg, my ankle then somehow hit the bar. Nine times out of ten it goes in the net – but you can’t let that affect you and the boys responded well and got the goal we deserved.
“I’ll have one of those a season! I’ve had a couple of those in my career and you just dust yourself off and look to the next game. Thankfully that is at Tynecastle and, as far as I’m concerned, that is the perfect game to have – I won’t be fazed by it at all.”
McManus’ intervention was a cathartic moment for the youngster, who is on loan from Fleetwood Town, following a run of 10 matches without a goal, during which he has come in from criticism from some Rovers fans.
His travails mirror those of Raith, who have have found the net as a team just four times during a winless that also stretches back 10 games.
“It was a great strike by Rudi [Skacel] and Deccy showed fantastic striker’s instincts,” lauded Stewart. “We have been short of goals in the last few months – all of the strikers have – so it was brilliant to see that positioning pay off and Deccy getting the goal.
“These are the type of performances we need to be giving consistently. The boys have stuttered a wee bit in the Championship, but against Hearts you saw exactly what we are capable of. We were superb. A replay was the least we deserved.”
And there will be no trepidation from Gary Locke’s side when they head across the Forth tomorrow evening, having matched Ian Cathro’s side and with a mouth-watering fifth-round tie against Scottish Cup holders Hibs on the line.
“There will be no fear going there. We are a really good team but we’ve just had a bit of a wobble lately,” added Stewart. “Teams like Hibs and Dundee United have had games where they haven’t beaten us this year so we know we have the quality in that dressing room.
“It will be a hard game, we know that, and they are a terrific team with some quality players – but we go there knowing what we are capable of against them.”