JOHN HUGHES allowed his kitman to deliver Saturday’s pre-match rallying cry but reckons no team-talk will be needed on Wednesday night as Raith Rovers come to terms with their fight for Championship safety.
Hughes had questioned whether his players cared enough after their 5-0 hammering from St Mirren and Simon Pollock, loyal Rovers fan and a member of the club’s backroom team, was called in to lay bare the consequences of relegation.
Despite playing from the first minute with 10 men following keeper Pavol Penksa’s red card, the Kirkcaldy men battled to the 2-1 victory over Ayr United they required, only to be consigned to the play-offs by Hibs’ failure to beat St Mirren.
However, witnessing the battling qualities of his side when their backs were well and truly up against the wall – including saving a penalty – has heartened Hughes ahead of the first-leg semi-final away to Brechin City.
He said: “I was really proud of the boys on Saturday and if we show that spirit, that application and focus we showed on Saturday, with 10 men for 90 minutes, then we’ll be a hard team to beat.
“You just get a vibe for it and I feel the boys are up for it.
“I don’t think I have to do a team-talk. Honestly.
“I think, eventually, the penny’s dropped, about where we are and what’s happened.
“We were hoping and praying that something else might go our way, but it didn’t.
“So, now it’s down to us and I think we’ve found that wee bit of togetherness and spirit.
“I just feel they’re galvanised.
“We don’t seem to do anything easy at Raith Rovers, in terms of the goalie getting sent-off and then conceding what I felt was a really cheap penalty given by the referee.
“But through all that, with everything that was thrown into the mix, we’ve overcome it and shown character and the desire to go and get the job done and get the victory.
“That tells me there’s plenty there.”
In the end, Raith missed out on safety by goal difference, finishing below Dumbarton by seven goals.
Every team in every league will have moments throughout seasons when they will feel hard done by or when things could have worked out differently and changed their campaign.
Hughes bemoaned the concession of a soft injury-time winner to Hibs in their third-last game of the season and the referee’s decision to award Queen of the South a goal in March when pictures appear to show the ball did not cross the line.
But the former Hibs and Inverness Caley Thistle manager has called on his players to make amends by surviving the play-offs.
He added: “These things are in the past but we’ve got an opportunity now to put all these wrongs right by winning football matches.
“That’s what I expect from these boys. Let’s be really positive and focused and keep our concentration for the next couple of weeks and get our business done.
“It’s harder when you play against part-time teams and you’ve got everything to lose.
“So you need a positive mental mindset and a concentration level that no-one’s going to get in your way and a focus that we’re going to get this job done.”