Lewis Vaughan has targeted the Championship title next term after Raith Rovers saw their promotion dream end at Dens Park.
Rovers upset the odds throughout the 2020/21 campaign, challenging towards the top of the table — only losing out on second place on the last day of the season — and claiming several notable scalps along the way.
Given it was their first season back in the Championship since 2017, it was a laudable effort from John McGlynn’s gutsy charges and their attractive brand of football won Raith ample admirers among the neutrals.
However, Vaughan says the task is now to continue that progress and, without Hearts in the division next year — and perhaps no Dundee, either — he reckons Rovers can mount a charge for top spot.
“It’s incredible achievement how well the boys have done this season,” said Vaughan. “We can hold our heads high and look forward to next season and there’s no reason why we can’t challenge for the title next season.
“We have got a young squad and hopefully we can keep the majority of the boys and kick on next season.”
Vaughan was one of a host of players who turned in super showings at Dens Park; add Kieran MacDonald, Fernandy Mendy, Ross Matthews, Dan Armstrong and Gozie Ugwu to the list of players who deserve a particular mention.
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And when Vaughan produced a silky turn and shot to open the scoring in the first half, it looked like an almighty shock may just be on the cards.
Rovers had rattled the hosts with their up-tempo, direct approach and, in doing so, illustrated that there will be more than one string to their bow next season — even if Dundee did ultimately get to grips with that approach and see the tie out.
“We showed that we can mix it up,” continued Vaughan. “Our usual style of play is passing the ball but we were more willing to go long against Dundee.
“We can be right up there next season and, to do that, you need to be able to win games in different ways.
“Who knows? If we could have got that second goal then we could have made it a bit tighter.
“But to be disappointed just shows how far we’ve come this season; our first season back in the Championship. We can hold our heads high.”
Indeed, that sense of pride overwhelms any notion of self-pity. Despite facing mission impossible in Tayside, Rovers promised to go out swinging — and they did exactly that.
“The boys gave it everything,” added Vaughan. We couldn’t ask for any more and left everything out on the pitch. We can be really proud.
“The games [playoff quarter-final] against Dunfermline perhaps took a little bit out of us. We were maybe tired for the first game against Dundee but we can’t use that as an excuse.
“I thought we were different class in the second game and dominated it, just like they dominated the first leg. But it wasn’t to be.”