Ahead of his side’s Ladbrokes League One opener against Raith Rovers this Saturday, Dumbarton boss Jim Duffy has admitted that he is cautiously optimistic his side are in a ‘healthier’ position after their Betfred Cup exit.

Duffy’s men got their league cup campaign off to the perfect start with a 1-0 win over Annan earlier this month before falling to three defeats on the bounce against Morton, Queen of the South and Motherwell.

And while the gaffer acknowledges that a cup exit and three losses is never ideal, he was able to find positives from the competition - namely a completely brand new squad finding its fitness and gelling ahead of a big season in the league.

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“The Betfred Cup certainly tested us as it was so early,” Duffy said.

“Everyone knows that we didn’t have any players until around one week before the game. 

“I don’t think it’s a competition we can judge ourselves on. It’s very difficult to prepare for it, especially when you’re playing against full-time teams of a higher quality. 

“We played four games within 14 days in some of the hottest weather this country has seen with a limited squad number wise, so it was very difficult.

"Take that into consideration and look at the fact that we’ve put a new team together, too, then you can start to explain the results. 

“It was tough on the players and very demanding but we will learn what we can from it. The positives are clear in that we now all know each other a little bit better, we are certainly a lot fitter now and we understand the challenges ahead a bit more. It will be tough but we’re a bit more ready for them now after the cup campaign.

“In terms of the upcoming league campaign, we’re a bit healthier.”

Looking ahead to the league opener itself at the C&G Systems Stadium, Duffy has revealed that, not only is he expecting a tough test against a top Raith side who finished in the play-off spots last season, he is certain the league itself will be tougher than it ever has been.

“It doesn’t matter who you face at the beginning of the season, it’s always difficult and Raith will be no different,” he added. 

“Even though they’ve had a few Betfred Cup games and a few friendlies, no one really knows exactly how they’ll line-up or how they’ll do with different set ups. It’s almost impossible to work on that so you just have to focus on your own team which is exactly what we’re doing here.

“It won’t just be Raith that’ll be a test, the competition in this league will be really difficult this year. It’s always tough, don’t get me wrong, but I think the quality has improved.

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“More teams are eyeing that spot in the Championship which is a very healthy league. A lot of teams are going for it and pushing the boat out but we have to try do it in a different way. That doesn’t mean we’re any less determined to do our best and see where we end up.”

Dumbarton v Raith at the C&G Systems Stadium kick-off this Saturday at 3pm.

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