After fearing his season was over, Raith Rovers captain Kyle Benedictus is back from injury and determined to lead the club to promotion.
In a welcome boost for a depleted squad, the defender made his first appearance in 10 weeks in the 2-2 draw at Arbroath on Sunday, coming through the 90 minutes drained, but unscathed.
An initial scan on his injured knee had suggested that he would face much longer on the sidelines, with a bone fracture on top of ligament damage set to keep him out into next season.
But a follow-up consultation revealed that the damage was not as extensive as first feared, and the 27-year-old is ready to put his body back on the line in a bid to win promotion.
Having effectively missed out on promotion twice last season, failing to secure the title on the final day then losing to Alloa in the play-offs, the skipper is desperate to get the club back to the Championship this time around, where he feels it belongs.
“Deep down we’ve known for a while Arbroath were too far ahead, so it’s a different feeling going into the play-offs this year,” Benedictus said.
“When we had it in our own hands in the last game of the season and we didn’t manage to get over the line, that was a big blow, and all the boys were gutted.
“That probably affected us in the play-offs on the Tuesday afterwards, but this season we’ve had our minds focused on the play-offs for a few weeks now and we know what we need to do.
“There’s no excuses. We’re the full-time team in this league, and it looks like it’s going to be Forfar in the first tie, so we need to make sure that over the two games we’re right bang at it, and whoever we get in the final, we need to make sure we’re at it again.
“We just need to make sure we get this club promoted. This is our second year in this league and that’s too long for a club like this.
“The club needs the financial benefits of playing in the higher league, and people are playing for their jobs now.
“First and foremost, the fans deserve it because they’ve been there every week and they are due a bit of joy.
“Hopefully we can do that for them in the play-offs.”
For Benedictus, this will be his fifth season in row featuring in play-offs, three unsuccessful attempts as a Raith player after enjoying better luck with Alloa, who he helped retain their Championship status in 2014-15, with a goal in each of the play-off ties.
“Hopefully that’s an omen I can maybe go and do that again this year,” he said.
“I’ve not scored yet this season, I think everyone in the team has scored now apart from me!
“Hopefully I can come up with an important one at the end of the season.”
With Kevin Nisbet in prolific goalscoring form, Benedictus will be more focused on keeping the clean sheets that have proved so elusive during the campaign.
“It’s disappointing to say as a defender, but it’s been the weakest part this year,” he said. “I know a lot of pressure goes on the back four and goalie when things aren’t going great, and we need to handle that pressure.
“Last year the boys were great at the back – we were a lot more solid than we’ve been this year.
“We’ve looked at the games a lot, and the manager is very detailed. Every week we’re doing video analysis and, as a team, we’ve not defended at all great this year.
“Either matching runners, silly mistakes or individual errors has cost us, and it seems to be an ongoing thing now.
“There’s two games left to try to get two clean sheets, maximum points and go into the play-offs with a bit of momentum.
“If we can keep it solid at the back and Nisbet and others can keep chipping in with goals then hopefully that would be enough to get us up.”