Raith Rovers defence down to bare bones ahead of trip to Arbroath

Raith Rovers face a defensive crisis heading into this weekend’s match with Arbroath.

By Paul McCabe
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 9:00 am
Frankie Musonda will miss Saturday's trip to Arbroath after being called up for the first time by Zambia. (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Frankie Musonda will miss Saturday's trip to Arbroath after being called up for the first time by Zambia. (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

The Stark’s Park side will head to Gayfield to face the second-place Lichties with four central defenders unavailable as they aim to secure a top four play-off place.

Christophe Berra is almost certainly out, Kyle Benedictus is suspended and will also miss the derby with Dunfermline on April 6, Frankie Musonda has been called up for international duty for the very first time by Zambia and Dave McKay was stricken by the illness bug that's swept through Stark's Park over the last two weeks and it's unclear whether he will recover in time for the weekend.

In addition goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald is rated as extremely doubtful, whilst midfielder Ben Willaimson is also suspended after getting his marching orders during the Caley defeat.

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With Tom Lang also out with a long term cruciate injury, manager John McGlynn will be forced to field what he calls an "unrecognisable" defence at Gayfield, where he will be sat in the stand after receiving a one-match ban from the dugout after being red carded following the final whistle on Saturday.

In one piece of good news however, assistant manager Paul Smith has recovered from covid after missing Saturday's match and will be back.

"We don't have our troubles to seek in defence, that's for sure,” McGlynn said.

“I would feel more comfortable and confident if we had our strongest squad available but unfortunately things have got more difficult for us.

“We're just going to have to do the best we can but it's going to be very challenging.

“Defence is an area of the team that you don't want to tamper with too much but we don't have any option.

“We're down to having just four defenders available at the club really.

“I'll have to put a back four together that's unrecognisable.”

Saturday’s 3-2 home defeat to Inverness was, McGlynn says, was unlike any other match he can remember being part of.

“I've never been involved in a game where so many things can go against you - losing Jamie MacDonald and Christophe Berra to injury, then going down to 10 men - yet with a couple of minutes to go we were winning 2-1,” he said.

“I can't compliment the players enough for putting up with everything that went against them and yet they did so well in the game.

“We're gutted not to take anything from the game, which we deserved to.

“It was very cruel on the players that it happened, they put so much effort into that game.

“The effort and commitment was out of this world, you can tell by the fans' reaction at the end.

“Inverness didn't look like scoring, even when we were down to 10 men we were dealing with it.

"There was deflection for their second goal, for me there is a free kick to us in the build up to their third.

"It was a very sore one to take.”

The loss looked as though it may have been hugely damaging in the race for a top four spot, however Partick’s loss of form, including a 4-1 hammering form Rovers’ rivals Dunfermline on Tuesday night, has thrown Raith a lifeline and the Glasgow club are just three points ahead of McGlynn’s side in the table, with Caley just one point further on.

Fifth-placed Raith will now head to play Dick Campbell’s side and hope their patched-up defence can help secure a win and close that gap.

McGlynn said: “There's still a lot to play for.

“With Arbroath bouncing back it looks like them and Kilmarnock have a fair amount of leeway in the top two positions.

"There are still going to be a few twists and turns along the way you would think. We still have Partick to play.

"We need to hang in there and do the best we possibly can.

"If we were sitting here with a full strength squad to choose from it would be better. We're really struggling defensively for this weekend, but the guys are just going to have to muck in, rally round and in adversity, try and pull a rabbit out of the hat just like we did down in Dumfries recently.

"We'll need to try and protect the defence a little more, or it could be that the best form of defence against Arbroath is attack and we go and cause them problems.

"Hopefully we can put them on the back foot.

"The guys are showing a great attitude in the games we've played this season and will continue to do so.They show hard work, team spirit and a desire to keep going and hopefully we'll get the three points that we need.

"That would make a massive difference and that's the thing that will spur us on.”