If there can be such a thing as a spirit crushing last minute victory, then surely last week’s 2-1 win over Forfar Athletic was exactly that.
Kieran MacDonald’s injury time winner may have been met with instant elation, but by the time the full time whistle had sounded, every Raith fan’s thoughts returned to Lewis Vaughan.
After a bright start to the campaign from Rovers, it was hoped the return of their talismanic forward would help the club duke it out with Falkirk and surprise package East Fife in a title battle.
Instead, Vaughan looks likely to be out for another lengthy spell, and while the feeling at the start of the season was that the squad needed to mind the fort until he and Tony Dingwall returned to full fitness, John McGlynn now needs to find a system that can cope without his first choice number 10.
If there are meagre crumbs of comfort to be found, it’s that Rovers have already performed better than expected without him.
The home record was already very good, and while results away from Stark’s Park were once again patchy at the beginning of the season, the nature of the wins over Airdrie and Forfar suggest the side might actually be able to grind results out, something which the team has been woefully inadequate at for a couple of seasons now.
The defence has been helped considerably by the arrival of Steven Anderson, who has assumed the mantle of a leader on the park, both in terms of his performances and his promptings, with Iain Davidson and Kyle Benedictus both seemingly thriving playing next to him.
At the other end of the park, the expectation was that Rovers would struggle for goals, especially at the start of the season, due to Vaughan’s recuperation and the departure of Kevin Nisbet, but that has been mitigated by the sheer volume of players who have chipped in this term.
Twelve different players have already found the net in just eight league games, an unusually high and encouraging tally, meaning the net bulging burden hasn’t fallen entirely on the shoulders of the front men.
Despite those positive indicators, it’s clear that Vaughan’s setback has come at the worst possible time.
Saturday’s home match with Falkirk is Raith’s biggest to date, and a litmus test in terms of their title credentials.
Ray McKinnon’s Bairns side haven’t really hit the ground running as of yet, and while they’ve been excellent at the back, conceding just two goals in eight league games, they’ve struggled to break organised teams down, exemplified by Saturday’s 0-0 draw against a redoubtable and impressive East Fife team.
Nothing will be decided one way or another in October, but if Rovers can put in a performance, and more importantly, pull off a win against the runaway League One favourites, then it would see Rovers end the quarter on 21 points, a figure that’s very much title winning form.