BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
RAITH ROVERS boss John Hughes has joked that he was ready to strangle Lewis Vaughan after the young striker plunged his parent club further into the relegation mire.
Vaughan, 21, was loaned out to direct rivals Dumbarton by former boss Gary Locke in January in one of the more bizarre transfers of the season, given just four point separated the sides at the time of transfer.
The youngster, who still trains with Rovers through the week, has gone on to net twice in 10 appearances for the Sons, including a pivotal winner in Saturday’s 1-0 triumph over promotion hopefuls Morton.
That result saw Dumbarton leapfrog Rovers into seventh spot in the Championship, with the Fifers now just two points above Ayr United in the relegation playoff position and three ahead of rock-bottom St Mirren.
“Wait until I get a hold of Lewis, I’m going to absolutely strangle him,” smiled Hughes ruefully.
“We could do with him back, but that is part and parcel of football – it was a decision made at the time.”
And with their Championship status now under real threat, Hughes has urged his beleaguered players to become matadors as they attempt to escape trouble.
The former Hibs boss is adamant Rovers display style and swagger on the training ground, only for that to be conspicuously absent when the first whistle blows – something he felt was evident in a 1-0 defeat at Falkirk at the weekend.
Hughes wants to see his charges display the mental strength to dominate the game, starting with Saturday’s pivotal Fife derby against Dunfermline at East End Park.
“You can watch our training and say ‘that looks sharp’,” Hughes told Raith TV. “They are popping it about, linking up, looking like players. I’m sorry to say, but I’m brutally honest, I’ve played with guys like that – training ground players. You need to take that onto the pitch.
“Dominate your opponent, dominate the game. Get on the ball, you are footballers. You know what your trade is? Look after the ball. If we do that, then it won’t come back at us so much and well have a chance to score a goal ourselves.
“It comes down to confidence. When you step out onto that stage, with the fans there, can you express yourself? I’ve seen many guys go out there and fluff their lines. It all starts with a mental mindset. You have to walk out of that tunnel and say ‘I’m a matador, you’re the bull, I’ll dictate the play.’
“In terms of effort, organisation and determination, they gave me everything. In terms of on the ball, no – not good enough.”