John McGlynn measures Raith Rovers’ campaign in fixture cycles.
Nine games at a time; manageable chunks.
Chatting to the press corps, the experienced coach often refers to the targets he sets for his players for each quarter (or each third, as it was last term due to the shortened season).
Specific tallies are never mentioned. McGlynn is not daft enough to make a rod for his own back.
Nevertheless, those are the waypoints for his campaign; how progress is analysed.
It is only right that Courier Sport does the same.
With Rovers’ first Championship quarter in the books, it makes splendid reading for those in the Lang Toun.
Not only are Raith riding high in second spot but they have outperformed every cycle of fixtures from last term, claiming 17 points.
The first and final rounds of games in 2020/21 were as close as they came to that tally, with 15.
Spreading the love
The ‘goals for’ column is similarly heartening.
Another goal for @dylantait14 👏
— SPFL (@spfl) October 18, 2021
Rovers have rippled the net 16 times in nine Championship games.
Compared to Raith’s own feats last term, that only trails the 21 goals they racked up in the first round of games — when McGlynn’s men were newly-promoted and oft-underestimated.
However, it betters the other two 2020/21 fixture cycles.
The variety deserves to be highlighted, with eleven different goal-scorers in all competitions already this season.
Rather than bemoan the lack of a 20-goal-a-season striker, McGlynn has created a side which functions marvellously with either Ethon Varian or Matej Poplatnik as a focal point, linking up with others and crafting threats from all angles.
Defensively sound (usually)
To complete the all-round package, Rovers ‘goals against’ record of 11 equals anything they achieved through a round of league games last season.
The back-four of Tumilty, Berra, Kyle Benedictus, Liam Dick now picks itself (unless McGlynn switches to a 3-5-2 as he did against Kilmarnock recently) and is a well-oiled unit.
Indeed, but for an utterly bizarre collapse from 4-0 up against Hamilton on the opening day of the Championship season, that column would be more handsome.
Aberrations aside, Rovers have kept seven clean sheets from 17 games in all competitions; a solid foundation from which to launch their attacking endeavours.
The numbers are impressive enough on their own — but they are amplified by context.
Rovers were supposed to fade away this season.
The metronomic Regan Hendry was the side’s heartbeat; surely irreplaceable? Kieran MacDonald was immense on the left, Dan Armstrong a match-winner on his day.
Gozie Ugwu; Manny Duku; Kai Kennedy; Jamie Gullan — all gone.
The signings of players like Dario Zanatta, Aidan Connolly and Berra now look like no-brainers, but few were laying rose petals at their feet when news of their arrivals broke.
But McGlynn saw something in them that previous managers had not and Rovers are reaping the rewards.