Raith Rovers’ title expectations tempered by injuries to best players

Regan Hendry is facing several months on the sidelines with a knee injury, while Lewis Vaughan could be out for up to a year. Pic: Michael Gillen
Regan Hendry is facing several months on the sidelines with a knee injury, while Lewis Vaughan could be out for up to a year. Pic: Michael Gillen

At half time during the recent game against Clyde, things were looking pretty good from a Raith Rovers perspective.

With over a quarter of the season gone, fans were just starting to wonder if challenging for the title was such a long shot.

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 10.25pm and available on the iPlayer

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 10.25pm and available on the iPlayer

After all, Falkirk were struggling to put wins together under Ray McKinnon, and a win in Cumbernauld would have kept Rovers two points ahead of East Fife and three in front of the Bairns.

It’s amazing how quickly fortunes can change though, as since that opening 45 minutes at Broadwood, very little has gone right.

Clyde’s fightback and the subsequent draw felt like a missed opportunity, and you could tell by the way the players trudged off that they felt exactly the same.

That there were only 10 players remaining by that point was also a concern, as Steven Anderson’s dismissal meant he’d miss the top of the table Fife derby.

However, the loss of the defensive lynchpin paled in significance when rumours began circulating that Regan Hendry had sustained a serious injury in training.

The confirmation that the midfielder had sustained medial ligament damage and would miss at least a few months was the worst possible news, coming as it did on the back of Lewis Vaughan being ruled out for the foreseeable future.

The squad being plagued by injuries is becoming an infuriating trend. Perhaps a shaman with the ability to remove hexes should be John McGlynn’s next acquisition, rather than a midfielder.

Vaughan and Hendry are almost certainly the side’s two best players, and the thinking was that along with Steven Anderson, the trio could supply a spine that even Falkirk couldn’t match.

Challenging for the title with just one of those three seems something a stretch.

That concern was there for all to see at the weekend, when without any of them, Rovers huffed and puffed and put in their worst display of the season, insipidly going down to a Peterhead team which hadn’t won a league game since August.

Expectations now almost certainly need to be tempered and realigned, but there’s still enough talent in the squad to think that this season could be a positive one.

The second half appearance of Grant Anderson on Saturday was a welcome one, giving Rovers an out ball and presence that they’d lacked in recent weeks.

With creativity being stymied through the names on the injury list, a return to the three at the back system which served them so well earlier in the campaign, should at least make them more redoubtable at the back. That said, that would require their central defenders to stop getting themselves dismissed.

With a favourable looking fixture list coming up, wins are badly needed to lift the partial gloom.