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Raith Rovers half-term report card: High marks for John McGlynn’s Championship title chasers

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Raith Rovers are tantalisingly poised, just one point adrift of Championship leaders Arbroath.

One of the most consistently entertaining, attack-minded sides in the division, John McGlynn’s charges are bona fide title challengers.

Seeking to return to the top-flight for the first time in 25 years, this is shaping up to be Rovers’ best chance to secure automatic promotion since 2010/11.

In the latest of Courier Sport’s half-term report cards, we turn our focus to Kirkcaldy.

Star man: Dario Zanatta

With nine goals and four assists from 28 outings, Zanatta has been an inspired capture by McGlynn.

Following forgettable spells with Partick Thistle and Ayr United, it would have been easy to write off the Canadian as a young talent on the wane.

Instead, McGlynn imbued the forward with belief and responsibility — something of a specialty of this coach — and has been richly-rewarded.

The flow of goals may have dried up somewhat due to the opposition doubling up on the left-winger.

However, that has only served to create space for Ethan Ross in the ‘No.10’ role. Even as a dangerous decoy, Zanatta’s influence is not to be underestimated.

The outstanding Berra was considered for this accolade

Honourable mentions are, however, due to the towering Christophe Berra, Brad Spencer until his unfortunate broken leg and tireless full-back Reghan Tumilty.

Standout moment: Rovers stun the Reds

This is the toss of a coin.

A thrilling 3-1 victory at Rugby Park was a deafening statement of intent in the Championship title race and represented a first win at Kilmarnock since 1997.

However, the nod goes to Rovers’ splendid 2-1 triumph over Aberdeen in the Premier Sports Cup.

Facing a Dons side yet to lose a domestic fixture until that afternoon, Raith were vibrant, organised and clinical in the final third as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit.

Played out to a raucous atmosphere at Stark’s Park, goals from Ethon Varian and Zanatta secured a lucrative trip to Celtic Park in the following round.

Transfer business: B+

Many onlookers expected Raith to regress following the departures of Regan Hendry, Dan Armstrong, Kieran MacDonald and a swathe of others.

Instead, the rebuilding job undertaken by McGlynn has been laudable.

Lang has come of age for Raith

The outstanding Zanatta aside, Berra is a giant at the back and Aidan Connolly has been reborn.

Tom Lang; Liam Dick; Varian — unmitigated success stories.

James Keatings has not worked out, injury ruined Kai Fotheringham’s loan spell from Dundee United, while Blaise Riley-Snow and Matej Poplatnik would like more minutes — but neither have let Raith down.

Even more recently, adding Ethan Ross to their ranks was inspired. The former Aberdeen kid has already contributed six goal involvements to the cause.

Must do better: Depth and get Varian in the goals

It seems churlish to nitpick, such has been Rovers’ form this term.

However, forced to search for room for improvement, then adding to Varian’s tally of two would be beneficial.

Unsung hero: Varian

His selfless work creates spaces and opportunities for others, so Varian’s modest return is no cause for panic. But if he can get on the end of a few deliveries and ripple the net himself, what a young prospect Raith, and parent club Stoke City, possess.

Although Sam Stanton recently arrived, McGlynn has acknowledged a need to add depth to the group in case of injuries, illness and the ever-present spectre at the feast, Covid.

Final grade: A-

Not quite the perfect score, given astonishing Arbroath and Inverness sit above Rovers in the table.

But the first half of the campaign could barely have gone better.

A 15-match unbeaten run — the club’s best since 1992/93 — and just one point off the summit, all while playing a style of football which has seen McGlynnball’ added to the Scottish football lexicon.

More of the same in 2022 would not go amiss.