Play-off semi-final opponent confirmed as Raith Rovers focus on reclaiming second place

Raith players celebrate Kevin Nisbet's second goal against Arbroath last Sunday. Pic: George McLuskie
Raith players celebrate Kevin Nisbet's second goal against Arbroath last Sunday. Pic: George McLuskie

Raith Rovers will fight Forfar Athletic for a second place finish in League One before the pair meet in the promotion play-offs.

As it stands, the Angus side will have home advantage in the Championship play-off semi-final second leg as they are currently one point ahead of Rovers heading into the penultimate weekend of the league season.

Raith would prefer to play the second leg at Stark's Park, and with a difference in prize money of around £20,000 for finishing second compared to third, there are double incentives for the Kirkcaldy side to reclaim the runners-up spot in the remaining two league games.

Manager John McGlynn said: “Ideally we’d want the second leg at home, but if it doesn’t pan out that way, we just deal with it - simple as.”

Rovers welcome previous manager Barry Smith back to Stark’s Park on Saturday as they host his relegation-threatened Brechin City side.

The visitors are in a straight shoot-out with Stenhousemuir to avoid finishing bottom, with the best they can now hope for is a relegation play-off.

“They’re fighting for their lives,” McGlynn said.

"I don’t see Barry coming here and throwing the kitchen sink at us by any means.

“They’ll be looking at it as a game they need to win, but they may think the best way to do that is to stay tight and compact, and look to hit on the counter.

“That will be up to them, but we’re just looking after ourselves in trying to win this game, and hoping we can get back into second place, which is where we want to finish.”

McGlynn believes Sunday's 2-2 draw with Arbroath has injected some belief into the squad.

Rovers faced the runaway champions with seven first team regulars missing, and while disappointed with the goals conceded, the Rovers manager was pleased with the overall character of the team.

“I thought players responded quite well in quite a tricky situation,” he said.

"We gained a fair amount of confidence from Sunday’s game and I can see that in the training this week.

“I’ve been made aware that from the team that beat Dunfermline, only three players started on Sunday for us, which is quite an amazing stat.

“I don’t know any other team that could do that, outside the very top clubs in Scotland who have got big squads, and go away to the champions and put up such a good fight and good show.

“That desire and hunger was there on Sunday and we expect it to be there from now until we kick the last ball of the season, whenever that might be.”

McGlynn blamed a lack of communication for Arbroath’s equaliser, which saw an unmarked Ryan Wallace score from a corner kick.

He said: “They made substitutions, and that doesn’t mean we should lose a goal, but the players lost concentration and no-one was picking up Wallace.

“When the ball was headed back in he got a free attempt at goal which is poor from our point of view.

“It’ was a lack of talking inside the box to recognise that never at any time did anyone pick him up.

“Both goals on Sunday could have been easily prevented, but even at that, we’ve got to take into consideration the number of bodies missing, so I thought we adapted and acquitted ourselves very well.

Rovers are expecting to welcome back three players this Saturday with Grant Gillespie, Euan Murray and Nat Wedderburn all set to return to the squad.

Kyle Benedictus missed training on Tuesday with a fever but is expected to recover in time.

Wingers Nathan Flanagan and Tony Dingwall remain sidelined by injury and are facing a race against time to be fit for the play-offs.

Striker Kevin Nisbet became the first Rovers player to hit more than 30 goals in a season since Gordon Dalziel in 1992-93 with his brace against Arbroath.

In a further boost, it was announced this week that the player has been shortlisted for the PFA League One Player of the Year award.

The 22-year-old is under contract until the end of next season but McGlynn would not be drawn on whether he would be able to retain the striker in the event of missing out on promotion.

“I think we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the summer,” McGlynn said.

“There’s no doubt we would expect him to attract attention because everyone is looking for goalscorers and he is exactly that. We just need to see what happens.”