Raith Rovers may have fallen at the final hurdle during the regular Championship campaign but that does not mean they are destined to pull up lame.
That is the message from captain Kyle Benedictus, who has called for a sense of perspective regarding the Kirkcaldy club’s achievements this term.
Successive defeats against Dundee and Hearts — the latter, a chastening 4-0 hammering — saw Rovers surrender second place to the Dee on a dramatic final evening on Friday.
As such, Raith will travel to East End Park on Tuesday night for the first leg of their playoff quarter-final against fierce Fife foes Dunfermline.
The Dark Blues, conversely, are enjoying 12 uninterrupted days of recuperation, training, preparation.
However, Benedictus has no intention of approaching the mouth-watering tie with a hangdog demeanour, positing that the vast majority of onlookers would have expected the Stark’s Park side to be involved in the shake-up at the bottom end rather than battling for promotion.
“We knew what we had to do on Friday and just came up short. But to finish third in the league? What an achievement it is,” said Benedictus. “We’ll not be disheartened.
“Our last two games were against Dundee and Hearts, absolutely massive clubs. They are supposed to be above Raith Rovers. We have still done tremendously this season.
“We’ve still got a real chance going into the end of the season. Who is to say we can’t do it? It’s only an extra two games. That extra break would have been an advantage, but that’s all. Advantages aren’t the be-all and end-all.
“We can’t sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. We have massive games coming up. We just need to go again on Tuesday: a Fife derby in a quarter-final. You can’t ask for much better than that.”
It will be deja vu all over again for Benedictus, who is a veteran of playoff campaigns and, unfortunately for him, has endured more than his fair share of heartbreak.
He did score for Alloa in 2015 as the Wasps defeated Forfar 4-3 on aggregate to secure Championship survival, but lost out to Hibs in Rovers’ bid to get promoted the following year before suffering relegation at the hands of Brechin City 12 months later; the lowest point.
Rovers then failed to get out of League 1 via the playoffs for two successive seasons. Benedictus has well and truly been in this movie before.
“Hopefully my experience will help. I’ve been at the top end and the bottom end for numerous seasons and I’ll do whatever I can to help the boys; help the team,” said the Stark’s Park skipper.
“At the start of this season, most people would probably have said Raith would be involved in the playoffs at the bottom, so there is no pressure on us.
“The last time we were involved at the top end of the table was my first season at the club under Ray McKinnon and we ran them close. I’ve been involved trying to get out of League 1, too.
“You know there will be nerves. They are big games but we have shown we are the third-best team in the league — the table doesn’t lie — and we need to prove that on Tuesday against Dunfermline.
“Whoever keeps their composure and plays the better football will come through.”
The rivalry between Rovers and the Pars this term has been one of extremes.
Raith manager John McGlynn sums it up succinctly: “We’ve had three games with Dunfermline: a 2-2 draw; they skelped us 4-1; we skelped them 5-1.
“So, everything stacks up for being a really good quarter-final. It’s a Fife derby — great, fantastic. Bring it on.”
Rovers’ skelping took place at East End Park in February, with a Fraser Murray double and goals from Declan McManus and Aaron Comrie doing the damage.
Dunfermline were skelped 5-1 in return at Stark’s Park on March 30, with Lewis Vaughan and Jamie Gullan claiming braces apiece and Regan Hendry rippling the net.
“It’s a win each and a draw this season, so we know how tight it will be,” added Benedictus. “It’ll probably be nerve-wracking and we’ll see how it plays out, in terms of the style of game, but we’ll be confident.”
Rovers, meanwhile, hope to have defender Iain Davidson available for the contest. TV footage suggests his dismissal against Hearts on Friday night was harsh and Raith will submit their appeal on Monday morning.
“I think the club will be looking to sort that out for the playoffs because Davo would be a huge miss for us,” added Benedictus. “He’s not touched the boy and then the lino has given it. Between them, they need to see he hasn’t touched him.”
In the event that a Scottish FA disciplinary panel is not convened prior to Tuesday’s fixture — which is likely, with Monday being a Bank Holiday — Davidson would be free to play.