Raith face pivotal weekend in unlikely play-off bid

Lewis Vaughan celebrates scoring the winner against Hibs. Pic: FPA
Lewis Vaughan celebrates scoring the winner against Hibs. Pic: FPA

Their season seemed over just a fortnight ago, but Raith Rovers travel to fourth-placed Falkirk on Saturday knowing that a win would drag them back into the play-off mix.

Rovers play-off hopes were written off after a recent defeat to Queen of the South left them 11 points off the pace, but after collecting nine points in the space of a week, they now have a glimmer of hope.

The Kirkcaldy side are seven points behind Falkirk but with a game in hand, meaning that a victory in Saturday’s crunch game, followed by a derby win over Cowdenbeath at Stark’s Park on Wednesday, would see the Grant Murray’s men close to within a point of the Bairns - and a possible promotion play-off.

“It could be a pivotal weekend,” said the Raith manager.

“I’ve kept stressing to the players that there’s always something to play for - now there’s a lot of play for.

“Three points at Falkirk would be huge and give ourselves something really big to play for in the remaining games. It will mean we’re slowly creeping up on these teams and putting pressure on them, and sometimes that pressure can have an affect on what happens - Hibs have just lost back to back games for the first time since August.

“Football has a funny habit of changing things dramatically at this time of the season.”

Raith’s three-game winning run came after boss Murray effectively ruled his side out of the play-off race, but he insists his players can cope with the pressure now they are back in contention.

“Players will put pressure on themselves to do well, I did as a player, and I still do now,” he said. “I put pressure on myself to motivate the guys to give everything.

“If we get a sniff on Saturday that there’s an opportunity to win the game, we have to push even more.

“Falkirk will be looking at taking three points from us that may end our season.”

Crucial to Raith’s hopes of success on Saturday will be a repeat of recent performances that saw Alloa, Queen of the South and Hibs all defeated at Stark’s Park in seven days.

And with Lewis Vaughan and Mark Stewart on fire in front of goal, Murray reckons Rovers can head to the Falkirk Stadium with confidence.

“We feel we’re guaranteed a goal threat with the form they are in,” Murray said.

“Confidence is a massive thing in that area of the pitch and both Mark and Lewis have got that at the moment. Strikers will try stuff in front of goal that they may not have tried when they are not scoring goals.

““Lewis is one who came through as an attacking midfielder playing in behind a striker but he’s shown he can play right up top and cause teams problems.”