BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
JOHN HUGHES is praying Danny Handling can be Raith Rovers’ answer to mercurial playmaker Russell Latapy as the Fifers attempt to escape the drop-zone.
Rovers slipped to a disappointing 1-0 derby day defeat against Dunfermline on Saturday to extend their dismal form to just two wins in 22 outings.
Their plight worsened on Tuesday evening when St Mirren battered Morton 4-1 to ascend out of the bottom two, sending Hughes’ strugglers spiraling into a relegation playoff place for the first time this season.
And he reckons Handling could have the same effect on those around him as Latapy did during their two years together on the books at Easter Road.
He said: “Danny needs game time, but he looked after the ball and worked very hard. We asked him to play a wee quirky position and, if I was playing with Danny Handling, then I would just keep feeding the ball into him.
“Like I did when I played with [Russell] Latapy, I said ‘there you go’, every time I got the ball, I’d be looking to get it into his feet. My job is easy.
“He has found himself out of the picture at Hibs, but we are really grateful to have him here because he can play a number of positions, he can look after the ball, he can link up. There are young kids in our team – Ryan Hardie, Jordan Thompson – and Danny will almost need to be an elder statesman.
“What I am looking about from Danny is for his football to do the talking and inspire those around him, to say ‘that is the standard we need’.
“He was a young kid that I had really high hopes for when I was Hibs manager but he picked up a horrendous knee injury that really set him back, but I think he’ll be a great addition and hopefully he comes up with a few goals for us.”
Raith host Morton, who are on their own winless run of five matches, on Saturday with their need for points in the battle for survival becoming increasingly desperate.
They then travel to champions-elect Hibs before ending the season with pivotal fixtures against the teams currently either side of them in the standings, St Mirren and Ayr United.
And Hughes insists courage will be required to haul themselves out of this mess.
He added: “Fans might not understand this, but I’ve been a footballer and there are times when you are in a position where you don’t know where the next win is coming from, and as soon as you step over the white line the trepidation sets in.
“That is a mindset and we need to overcome that and trust each other.”