For all the richly-merited plaudits Raith Rovers have received in the last 12 months, they have rarely been lauded for defensive stoicism.
The focus has understandably been on the progressive, possession-based brand of football which saw the Fifers upset the odds and reach the promotion playoffs last season.
The personal development of players such as Regan Hendry, Dan Armstrong, Kieran MacDonald — all now departed — and Reghan Tumilty has also been a cause for widespread praise.
However, the start of this campaign has brought a new, rather more back-to-basics, cause for cheer.
Five-in-a-row for first time in 11 years?
Saturday’s 0-0 draw Premier Sports Cup against Alloa Athletic represented Rovers’ fourth successive clean sheet.
That is perhaps to be expected against Brechin City, Cowdenbeath and, at a push, the Wasps, albeit the latter did put two goals past Livingston during a shock win.
However, to hold off the attacking talents of Premiership side Livi is to be commended and illustrated boss John McGlynn’s desire to match their established, attacking philosophies with a solid core.
Should Rovers stop Hamilton from finding the net in their Championship curtain-raiser on Saturday, it will be the first time they have racked up five shut-outs on the bounce since September 2010.
“We’re really happy with that, and evidence would suggest that we are tighter,” said McGlynn. “We’re not quite so open as a team and not getting caught out.”
The Stark’s Park boss also heralded Liam Dick’s ‘best game in a Raith shirt’ following the left-back’s arrival from the Wasps, showing signs of a fruitful rapport with Dario Zanatta.
The sight of centre-back Tom Lang, a summer signing from Clyde, on the bench against Alloa is another reason for Rovers celebration, while fans’ favourite Frankie Musonda will return from knee surgery in around three weeks.
However, both men will do well to displace the pairing of Kyle Benedictus and Christophe Berra.
The virtues of skipper Benedictus are well established, but Berra is proving as good as his word as he rolls back the years, having expressed his desire to prove a few people wrong this term.
The former Hearts, Dundee and Scotland ace, now 36 years of age, is deafeningly vocal as he organises teammates, gobbles up everything in the air and has been, as expected, positionally faultless.
Berra’s passing has also been excellent since joining the Rovers — an area of his game which prompted severe criticism latterly at Tynecastle. He is calm, confident and visibly enjoying his football again.
More onerous challenges lay ahead in a long, arduous Championship campaign but Berra’s first few weeks as a Raith player suggest he could prove an inspired capture, on and off the pitch.
Allied with the option to deploy tough-tacking, imposing Blaise Riley-Snow in midfield for tougher contests — as McGlynn did to great success against Livi — the message is clear: while easy on the eye, Raith will be no pushovers.