What does the Betfred Cup tell us about Raith Rovers promotion chances?

Stark's Park - Kirkcaldy - Fife - 'Raith Rovers Squad 2019-2020  - 'credit- Fife Photo Agency
Stark's Park - Kirkcaldy - Fife - 'Raith Rovers Squad 2019-2020 - '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, which is returning to our screens in September.

So, what have we learned from Rovers latest ignominious attempt to successfully navigate a League Cup group section?

Defeats to second-tier contenders Dundee and Inverness Caledonian Thistle may have been expected, if a little deflating.

A victory over Peterhead, a fellow League One side who will have one eye on a Championship playoff spot was far more heartening, but the now seemingly annual gubbing from Cove Rangers meant that any positive momentum was brought juddering to a sudden halt.

Panic, strops and claiming the season is heading for the rocks may be a little knee-jerk, but by the same token, the results and performances suggest no-one needs to start contacting local coach firms to enquire about open top bus availability next May.

Opinion is split on how seriously results in the season-opening tournament should be taken, and while sparse benches are an indicator that for many teams, squad building is far from over, last season’s competition suggests the League Cup is still at least a partial barometer of how clubs will fare.

Of the eight sides who finished bottom of their groups, of which Rovers were one, seven went on to post seasons somewhere between mediocre and muck.

There’s also the added fact that some of Rovers League One rivals were going about their business impressively.

East Fife humbled Dundee United at Tannadice, before defeating Hearts on penalties to qualify from Group A in second place, while Forfar qualified from a group containing two Premiership sides in Ross County and St Johnstone.

Both teams look to have recruited well over the summer, and while Raith are ranked as second favourites for the title behind Falkirk, the Loons and the Fife will fancy their chances of ending the season above Rovers.

To ensure that doesn’t happen, John McGlynn will have to figure out a way to restore Rovers defensive unit to something that at least resembles the one which impressed for the bulk of the 2017/18 season.

Across all four divisions, only Celtic conceded fewer goals than the Kirkcaldy side during that campaign, but despite three new defensive acquisitions in the summer, last season’s frailties look like they’re seeping into this one.

An inability to defend set-pieces still seems to be rife, and while Kieran MacDonald and Michael Miller seem to be decent fits for the full-back positions, Fernandy Mendy looks like he’s a fair way to go before he’s ready to usurp any of the other central defenders.

The return of Lewis Vaughan should, in theory at least, provide the goals that can sustain a promotion push, and with Regan Hendry putting in performances that make you wonder how exactly he ended up in Scotland’s third tier, there should be no shortage of opportunities for Rovers front-men.

If McGlynn can figure out a way to keep the door shut at the other end, Rovers could have a pretty productive season.

With his current resources though, that might be a little easier said than done.