Raith Rovers: Boss Ian Murray on club 'not being a soft touch now' as they face Ross County in play-off final

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Raith Rovers boss Ian Murray reckons his side “aren’t a soft touch now” after edging past Partick Thistle over two legs to reach the Premiership play-off final – earning the Kirkcaldy club a shot at playing top flight football next season for the first time in 27 years.

The Stark’s Park outfit lost 2-1 at Stark’s Park on Friday in the second leg of the semi-final after winning by the same scoreline three days earlier at Firhill, but they prevailed on penalty kicks after extra-time to set up a two-legged tie against Ross County.

After an action packed first half that saw club captain Ross Matthews head home either side of a Blair Alston brace for the visitors, both sides couldn’t be separated in a pulsating tie.

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And Rovers eventually held their nerve during the shootout, with Scott Brown’s opening miss not proving costly after Jack McMillan and Ricco Diack missed for the Jags – allowing Lewis Vaughan to seal a 4-3 penalty success.

Ecstatic Raith Rovers players mob Lewis Vaughan after the struiker's winning penalty against Partick Thistle (Pics Fife Photo Agency)Ecstatic Raith Rovers players mob Lewis Vaughan after the struiker's winning penalty against Partick Thistle (Pics Fife Photo Agency)
Ecstatic Raith Rovers players mob Lewis Vaughan after the struiker's winning penalty against Partick Thistle (Pics Fife Photo Agency)

“Fair play to both sets of players, I think they’ve shown once again the Championship is just such a competitive league to be in,” boss Murray said.

“But the overriding fact is it’s fantastic for the football club, fantastic for the supporters and the players, and we can look forward to the final.

“We want to go one further now. We’ve come through a really gruelling 36-game season and two really tough play-off games.

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"We’ll have to play better than we did (on Friday night). But we will do.

Lewis Vaughan celebrates after scoring the winning penalty against Partick ThistleLewis Vaughan celebrates after scoring the winning penalty against Partick Thistle
Lewis Vaughan celebrates after scoring the winning penalty against Partick Thistle

"When it gets to penalties it becomes a lottery and fair play to both sets of players.”

Ex-Hibs and Rangers ace Murray went on to praise his side’s mentality, saying that any talk of his Rovers team being a “soft touch” has been “put to bed” after reaching the play-off final, having safely secured runners-up spot in the Championship.

“A lot of emotional energy was obvious. Physically as well,” Murray said.

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“But the way we came through it shows we’ve got a little bit about us.

Ian Murray is thrilled to have led Raith Rovers into play-off finalIan Murray is thrilled to have led Raith Rovers into play-off final
Ian Murray is thrilled to have led Raith Rovers into play-off final

“Last season, Raith Rovers were one of those teams that were a little bit soft at times, or were perceived to be soft.

“This season, we’ve shown we’re not, because we’ve had so many close games – one-goal victories and very narrow defeats.

“We’ve managed to go to Tannadice and Somerset Park, Inverness and win games, really, really hard places to go.

"We know we’re not a soft touch now. That’s put to bed now.

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Vaughan strikes home decisive penalty at Stark's ParkVaughan strikes home decisive penalty at Stark's Park
Vaughan strikes home decisive penalty at Stark's Park

“When you win a penalty shoot-out in a play-off game, and when you’re actually a goal behind after the first penalty kick, then it shows the players never give up.

"They never stop, they keep believing.

“But, when it gets to penalties, I’m not going to say it’s all about the football. It’s about mentality, it’s about who holds their nerve a bit.

“I feel for the boys that missed – Scott Brown for us and the two Partick boys – fair play for them for stepping up.”

Raith Rovers now face Ross County at Stark’s Park on Thursday (kick-off -8pm) before heading to Dingwall on Sunday for the return leg, kick-off noon, with both ties being shown live on Sky Sports.