THE BOTTOM two teams in Division One go head-to-head in Dumfries on Saturday in the knowledge they have 10 games left to save their season.
Ninth-placed Raith Rovers will travel to rock bottom Queen of the South hoping for a season-first – a third straight victory – that would lift them eight points clear of their relegation rivals.
Rovers dropped to second bottom, the relegation play-off position, on Tuesday night after Ayr United won their game in hand against Livingston.
But with the Honest Men in Scottish Cup action on Saturday, the Kirkcaldy side know a win over Queen’s will lift them back out of the danger zone.
“Everyone knows the situation,” Raith manager John McGlynn told SportsPress.
“We want to try to make it an eight-point gap, and they’ll want to make it a two-point gap.
“Gus McPherson will have his team fired up, and being at home they would expect and want to win this game.
“For us, it doesn’t have to be pretty as long as we come away with three points, which would set us up in a great position to continue this run we’ve started.
“Saturday was first time we took an opportunity to cut the gap on the team directly above us.
“Now we now find ourselves in a situation where we’re up against the team below us – but that does not suggest it will be easier.
“More than likely it will be more difficult because both of us are really scraping for points.
“We certainly go into the game with loads more confidence after beating Morton 5-0, and we believe we can win there as we managed to do earlier in the season.
“It’s set up for a tricky, tough encounter but one that we are well up for.”
One crunch match is followed by another, with a home clash against Ayr to come next Saturday, and McGlynn recognises the importance of the next fortnight.
“If we were to come through these net two games having taken all six points, or even four points, it would be interesting to see how the table looks after that,” he said.
“We would certainly have a bigger gap to the teams below us, and it may well be that we’ve closed the gap on teams above us.
“That’s our motivation. We can still have a healthy end to the season if we get through the next two games having collected maximum points.”
McGlynn will be forced to split up the strike partnership that has scored six goals in the last three games as Brian Graham is suspended.
“Brian has collected six bookings so he’s banned for one match,” McGlynn revealed. “He’s made a massive contribution since coming back from injury, and has struck up a great partnership with John Baird.
“It’s up to someone else to try to pick up where Brian has left off, and we’re hoping that will be the case.”
Striker Pat Clarke is unlikely to step into Graham’s position as he is currently suffering from tonsilitis.
Teenage goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw is also in line to make his second start as David McGurn is rated 50-50 for the weekend.
“McGurn is getting better but we can’t guarantee he will be available for Saturday,” McGlynn said.
“However, we’ve no fears over putting Ross back in after his performance on Saturday.
“Young players can show all the potential in the world, but until they get their debut you never know how they will handle the situation.
“Big Ross handled it very well, made a few difficult early saves, grew in confidence, and did everything very well.
“It suggests we don’t need to rush out and get anyone else in. He looked a very competent goalkeeper and I’m confident that if he plays on Saturday he’ll do well in the game.
“I would also hope that the 10 players in front of him will do as well again defensively and give him all the encouragement that he needs.”
Willie Dyer was sent home from training on Tuesday as he was feeling unwell. “Hopefully it’s nothing too serious,” McGlynn added.
Laurie Ellis and Grant Murray both missed training in the early part of the week as they were in Largs undergoing their A Licence coaching badges.