Raith Rovers enjoyed the perfect warm-up for Wednesday’s crunch Fife derby against Dunfermline by claiming a thrilling 3-2 victory over Partick Thistle.
Dario Zanatta was inspired and Kyle Benedictus was the unlikely goal hero as the Kirkcaldy club surged into the Championship playoff positions.
Allowing Thistle to score twice in the dying embers — resulting in a nerve-shredding finale — was not in the script.
However, Raith boss John McGlynn can be thrilled with a pivotal three points against a fine Jags side.
The Rovers Ramos
Okay, so comparisons with Spanish penalty king Sergio Ramos are a little premature.
We won’t see Benedictus attempting a Panenka any time soon. Probably.
Nevertheless, the Raith captain was a fascinating choice to take Sunday’s spot-kick and, in light of Lewis Vaughan’s ongoing absence, the inspirational defender will continue in the role.
It is understood Zanatta was keen to take on the responsibility but Benedictus stepped up and slotted past Jamie Sneddon with aplomb.
Benedictus notched his second goal of the game — and the season —14 minutes later.
Given he has never scored more than five goals in a single campaign (2015/16), his new-found duties from 12 yards may just fire him to a new personal best.
Keeping ‘the whip out’
Speaking after Sunday’s Zanatta masterclass, McGlynn smiled: “I would describe Dario by saying: if you were in horse racing you would need to keep the whip out. You need to be at him.”
It was not a dig; there was no exasperation in his voice.
McGlynn is clearly enjoying the challenge of motivating, haranguing and developing the raw talent of Canadian.
And Zanatta’s display against Thistle illustrated plenty of fortitude after a daft red card against Celtic on Thursday.
He dusted himself off, scored the opener — the sixth time he has rippled the net in 12 games — and played a part in the other two goals.
Zanatta continues to enjoy what increasingly looks destined to be a banner season.
A peculiar Jekyll and Hyde aspect of Rovers’ season reared its ugly head on Sunday.
As a general rule, McGlynn’s side are a defensively solid unit. They have kept seven clean sheets in 13 fixtures and are organised, well-drilled and composed.
The back-four — Reghan Tumilty, Benedictus, Christophe Berra and Liam Dick — picks itself and the understanding is growing week-on-week.
Yet, for the second time this term, Raith almost blew a seemingly insurmountable lead.
The inexplicable collapse from 4-0 to 4-4 in the space of 25 minutes against Hamilton in August was staggering; a hall of fame comeback.
The similarities on Sunday were stark — crosses not being stopped, second balls in the box not being cleared; uncharacteristically lax stuff.
And the blame does not solely fall on the defenders.
It was a topic of conversation in the Raith dressing room after the match, with a view to ensuring they never again get sloppy with a handsome lead. The senior players made sure of that.