Scottish Premiership play-offs: Raith Rovers v Partick Thistle

Scottish Premiership play-offs: Raith Rovers v Partick Thistle
Partick Thistle v Raith RoversSNS

Raith Rovers might currently hold all the aces in their tense Premiership promotion – but boss Ian Murray admits he still expects one more twist to come.

The Kirkcaldy side are just 90 minutes away from a final clash against either Ross County or St Johnstone, if they can maintain their narrow lead over rivals Partick Thistle on Friday night.

And with the lure of a return to the top flight for the first time in a generation for the club tantalisingly close, Murray insists his players will not be allowed to let their focus drop for a moment.

“I’ve drilled in to them not to take their eye of the ball – in fairness to the players, they are not that type of group anyway, they are pretty focussed and they don’t really rest on their laurels too much,” he said.

“They have had a lot of games this season where they have had to go and win and they have managed to do that to keep on the tails of Dundee United. It has been hard but they have shown they can handle big occasions.

“I am sure there is a twist to come. Hopefully it is in our favour, we have certainly got the calibre and quality.”

Lewis Vaughan scores against Partick Thistle goalkeeper David Mitchell at Firhill

SNS

A key factor in Rovers’ promotion bid this season has been the return to form of Lewis Vaughan, who was just a toddler last time Raith were in the top flight. After a horrific run of injuries, the 28-year-old has already bagged 19 goals this season – including a crucial one at Firhill on Tuesday.

And Murray believes a return to the top flight would be the perfect cap on the forward’s fairytale season.

“Sometimes it’s written in the stars. That is what football does, it makes stories, good ones most of the time as well.’

“Lewis has bounced back incredibly well from a terrible time with his injuries but we are past that now with Lewis. We don’t think about it when he is training, we don’t think about when he is playing… he has shown tremendous mental strength to get back to where he is, but he also shown tremendous physical strength to go out and play the way he plays,

“His quality is never in doubt – we saw that in the first leg with his finish, he has done that throughout the season , and I still think there is more to come from him.’

For Vaughan himself, he’s relishing the chance to take another step towards the top flight in front of a packed Starks Park.

‘It has been a great season for myself personally,” he said. “Scoring 19 goals and keeping myself fit was probably the key

“I’ve played the majority of games this year and back enjoying football again, and it is a massive game on Friday and one that I am really looking forward to.”

Raith go into the game with Keith Watson, who came off during the first leg with a hamstring knock, as their only injury doubt, while Thistle have no injury concerns.

Kris Doolan

SNS

Kris Doolan has largely been the picture of serenity on the touchline since taking over as Thistle manager last March – no matter the chaos around him on or off the park.

And the 37-year-old says he intends to keep that air of calm during the crucial second leg at Stark’s Park – to set an example to his players.

“If you get carried away you make poor decisions,” he said.

“It’s difficult to get caught up in the moment and still make good decisions, so I try my best to remain as calm as I can. I want the players to remain calm, to make good decisions – that’s what being a footballer is.

“That calmness, we don’t panic, but we want to see urgency – we’ll be calculated in the way we go about it but we want to win.”

Despite going into the tie a goal down, Doolan remains convinced the tie is winnable after the second half performance of his side at Firhill.

“I think any game at this level in the Championship the first goal is always important, but we’re testament to the fact games turn a lot in playoff games – we go there with everything to gain and nothing to lose,” he said.

“Raith are the favourites, they quite rightly finished ahead of us in the league but going up there we’ll have a big support, a noisy support and we’re coming up because we want to win the game.”

Related Topics

  • Scottish Championship
  • Partick Thistle
  • Scottish Football
  • Raith Rovers
  • Football
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