BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
RAITH ROVERS have been dealt a devastating blow in their battle for Championship survival after manager John Hughes confirmed that Ross Callachan will miss the remainder of the campaign with a broken arm.
The 23-year-old had to be replaced at half-time of Rovers’ 1-0 defeat against Falkirk on Saturday after landing awkwardly on the Bairns’ artificial turf.
Scans this week saw Callachan’s worst fears realised when he was diagnosed with a double-fracture, confining him to a plaster cast.
And Hughes was in no mood to downplay the importance of the loss, insisting that Callachan’s bravery, energy and personality will be a huge loss during a fraught finale to the season.
The Raith boss rued: “Ross Callachan is definitely out for the season. He has broken his arm in two places after landing on the astro-turf. He will be sorely missed because he epitomises everything we are about at Raith Rovers.
“That kid walks into training every single day with his heart on his sleeve, drives the team forward and shows great fitness and energy levels.
“That is just the way it seems to be; that’s Lady Luck. When you are fighting for your lives these things happen.
“He has everything you would want in a young player. He gives us that box to box presence and is happy to come off and be brave and get on the ball.
“Ross is real competitor and the kind of guy you want to work with because his enthusiasm is infectious. However, we will just need to go about our business in a different manner.
“He is absolutely gutted because he was really up for this fight.”
While Callachan is unavailable for Saturday’s crucial Fife derby against Dunfermline, Hughes has seen Rovers’ injury woes somewhat ease this week.
The experienced coach expects to be able to call upon captain Jason Thomson, Kyle Benedictus and midfield dynamo Ross Matthews after the key trio shook off fitness concerns in time to be considered for the trip to East End Park.
Hughes continued: “If I were another player, I’d be saying ‘my challenge is now to get to where [Callachan] is and make my mark’.
“I’m looking for someone else to come in and take over that mantle and inspire the team to go on and win the game on Saturday. You never know, they could be the hero; football is funny for things like that.”
As a veteran of Old Firm and Edinburgh rivalries – as a player and manager – Hughes is acutely aware that a derby-day triumph could be the perfect stimulus to climb away from the drop-zone, with Rovers currently only two points above the relegation playoff places.
Nevertheless, he has urged his side to approach the derby cauldron with “ice in their veins”.
He continued: “This could, 100 per cent, be the match we need to build some confidence and momentum, but we can’t get caught up in the occasion.
“You need to control your emotions and have ice in your veins. We can’t afford to lose our heads and be all over the place.
“I always say to the players: it’s hard enough to play against your opponent, make a simple pass and get the ball back without reacting the atmosphere, talking to the referee or letting other things influence your emotions – we need to play the game.
“We need to brave, get on the ball and, although it will be hammers and tongs, play as much of the game as possible in Dunfermline’s half.”