Lack of defensive options as Raith Rovers look to stay top for Christmas

Raith Rovers are aiming to be Christmas number one as they conclude the first half of the season with a home match against Dumbarton.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 4:35 pm
Updated Friday, 20th December 2019, 4:44 pm
14-12-2019. Picture Michael Gillen. FALKIRK. Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk FC v Raith Rovers FC. Matchday 17. SPFL Ladbrokes League One. John McGlynn.

The Kirkcaldy side are currently top of League One on goal difference ahead of Airdrieonians and will need three points this Saturday to ensure they head into the festive period as league leaders.

John McGlynn’s men are on a run of just one defeat in 16 games in all competitions, despite continuing to endure a torrid time with injuries and, more recently, suspensions.

“That’s positive,” McGlynn said in response to his team’s recent record, “but it doesn’t tell the whole story and everything we’ve gone through to try and stay on track.

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“Having so many injuries and, you could argue, self-inflicted suspensions are not helping us. But we’ll get over them and I’m hoping in the second half of the season we can get as near as possible to a clean bill of health and stay away from suspensions.

“Hopefully then we’ll be even stronger for it and can make a real push to get to the Championship.”

McGlynn has been particularly pleased with the character his players have shown in recent weeks, particularly at Falkirk Stadium on Saturday, when Rovers started with a depleted side and finished with a makeshift back four after Kyle Benedictus was red-carded.

“I knew that whatever 11 players went on to the park would give everything they could for the jersey,” he said.

“They’ve done that all season but I think it’s been upped when there’s been a bit of adversity and everyone has had to pull together to get through it.

“It only speaks volumes for the character of the players that they’ve done that.”

Rovers have had three players red-carded in the last fortnight, meaning Iain Davidson, Kyle Benedictus and Ross Matthews will all be suspended for Saturday’s visit of the Sons.

The Fifers have had five red cards in total this season – the third worst offenders in Scottish football behind Hamilton and Stirling on six – but McGlynn played down the discipline issue.

“The nature of the game is that it’s competitive, so there’s always going to be confrontation and going in for challenges,” he said.

“On odd occasions, there will be a mistimed tackle. It just seems it’s all happened in a very short period for us since Steven Anderson got our first red card against Clyde.

“Last season, we only had one red card and myself and Paul are not doing anything differently or teaching them how to get sent off.

“It just seems like a bit of bad luck and putting ourselves into situations we didn’t really need to get involved in.

“On Saturday, Regan Hendry was just back from injury, and I’m not going to say it, but I think the Falkirk players are aware of his talent.

“The ball was miles away from where the player went to get Regan, and I’ll leave it there.”

McGlynn is expecting a Dumbarton side who have won their last two away fixtures to provide tough opposition at Stark’s Park on Saturday.

“They’ve been very much up and down,” he said. “We went there at the start of the season and won, then they went to Falkirk and got hammered. They had a bad start, but after six or seven games, Dumbarton had shot up right beside us.

“They’ve then had a little bit of inconsistency to make a real challenge but they are only two points behind Montrose, who are on a great run, so what does that tell you?

“The league is very tight and every single game is difficult.”

Rovers will be hoping Steven Anderson can recover from injury on time, otherwise McGlynn may be forced to consider the same makeshift back four that finished in Falkirk on Saturday, with winger Dan Armstrong at left back, and Kieran MacDonald moved to centre-half.

“We don’t really have great options,” McGlynn said. “We don’t have other natural defenders available to us so we’ll need to do something with players going into unnatural positions. We managed it for 30 minutes on Saturday but it’s different going to start a game.

“We just have to assess how everyone is with regard to injuries, and whether Steven Anderson has a chance or not.”