If Raith Rovers think they are odds on for a top four finish then the comprehensive beating at the Falkirk Stadium has provided a reality check.
Grant Murray’s men have had the look of a top four side for most of the season so far, but Saturday showed what can happen if they drop their standards as they were out-classed and out-worked by a bright young Falkirk side.
By the time Rovers got up to the pace of the game they had already given up two early goals. Losing a third straight after half-time sealed their fate as Falkirk ripped third place in the table away from them.
The only positive to come out of it was the late consolation goal scored by Greig Spence, which meant nothing in terms of the outcome but should hopefully help the striker regain some confidence after a lean spell in front of goal.
It’s now three league defeats in four for the Kirkcaldy side - albeit with a fantastic Scottish Cup result in between - but with the mid-table pack closing in, the next two home games against Dumbarton and Cowdenbeath could be season defining.
The way both teams started Saturday’s match would shape its entire outcome. Rovers looked like a side hoping to ease their way into it, whereas Falkirk burst out the traps like a pack of hungry wolves.
The game was only three minutes old when the opening goal arrived, but you could still say it had been coming.
The defending left a lot to be desired as Raith allowed one of the smallest players on the park - Craig Sibbald - a free header six yards from their goal.
The Bairns were moving the ball with great freedom and got the second goal they deserved with a lovely passing move that left the visitors bamboozled.
Raith players simply stood off and admired as Falkirk passed their way from the halfway line, down the left, into the box, where Connor McGrandles took a lovely touch to turn past Callum Booth and drill a low shot beyond Laidlaw.
Great to watch for the home fans, painful viewing for those in the away end.
At 2-0 down Rovers were not completely out of it, and had an almightly scramble on the Falkirk line before the break resulted in a goal, then a comeback could have been on the cards.
But the ball somehow stayed out and when Stephen Kingsley challenged Laidlaw, fairly in the referee’s eyes, to score Falkirk’s third five minutes after half-time it was curtains.
Spence made it 3-1 with 15 minutes left, his shot trickling over the line after Michael McGovern got a hand to it, but it was too little, too late.
Rovers cannot afford to start games so slowly again.