Raith Rovers opinion: Is momentum all that important heading into play-offs?

Raith Rovers striker Kevin Nisbet celebrates a recent goal against Brechin. Credit- Fife Photo Agency
Raith Rovers striker Kevin Nisbet celebrates a recent goal against Brechin. Credit- Fife Photo Agency

Shaughan McGuigan is an avid Raith Rovers fan and panellist on the BBC Scotland football programme, A View From The Terrace, shown on Fridays at 11pm and available on the iPlayer.

Much was made of Raith Rovers form heading into these play-offs.

One win five didn’t exactly swell confidence, and to be successful in these end-of-season affairs, momentum is a necessity.

At least that seems to be the general theory, and in fairness, it makes a lot of sense.

After all, it can’t do any harm to go into the final sprint with a prevailing wind behind you.

But is it required, or is just another footballing myth that’s as much guff as the form book disappearing out the window for a derby game or that a good football man makes for a good manager?

Shaughan McGuigan - Fife Free Press columnist and panellist on BBC Scotland programme, A View from a Terrace

Shaughan McGuigan - Fife Free Press columnist and panellist on BBC Scotland programme, A View from a Terrace

Like most cliches, there’s an element of truth in there, but there’s more than enough evidence to suggest it doesn’t really matter whether you swagger or stagger into these games.

As difficult as it is to rake back over the coals of Rovers 2015/16 campaign, Brechin City’s achievements in huckling Raith and Alloa Athletic out of the Championship play-offs was a fine example of how form going into them isn’t overly important.

Darren Dods men had put together a campaign that was no better than decent in League One, losing more games than they’d won on the way to finishing fourth, winning just one of their final six league games, a sequence which included a 6-1 reverse to the team they’d eventually dispose of in the final.

Stenhousemuir too, gained promotion to this season’s third tier by triumphing over a much-fancied Peterhead in last season’s play-off final, despite just two wins in their final 10 league games of the season. In comparison, Peterhead had won nine of their last 11.

Momentum isn’t the be-all and end-all in these situations. Having a squad of players that believes it can get through them is more important, as is a manager who has everything and everyone prepared for these final key games. A large dollop of good fortune doesn’t go amiss either.

Hopefully belief amongst the fans isn’t vital, as it’s fair to say that Raith’s track record in play-off ties, played five lost five, doesn’t generate too much faith amongst the supporters, although Tuesday evening’s 2-1 win over Forfar may have some starting to come round to the idea that promotion is possible, even if the starting line-up was a little bewildering.

If John McGlynn had a master-plan with his formation then it initially looked lost on everyone involved, with a revolutionary never-seen-before set-up that appeared to involve a flat-back four and a left-wing back.

Leaving David McKay to defend the entire right-hand side seemed, well, a little foolhardy, but with a little tweaking as the match wore on, it kind of worked, as the players eventually started to look more comfortable with what they were being tasked with.

Considering Rovers track record in away matches, and especially the Angus region where they’ve won just once in eight visits this term, a bigger lead would have been preferable, but McGlynn’s men dug in impressively as the second half progressed, and looked as up for the challenge as they have been all season.

The tie is still anyone’s, but for just the second time in six attempts, Rovers are taking a lead into the deciding leg of a playoff.

Fingers crossed it’s sixth time lucky.