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3 Raith Rovers talking points: The startling ‘642 minute’ stat fuelling John McGlynn striker search

Ethan Ross goes for goal
Ethan Ross goes for goal

Raith Rovers’ stalemate against Dunfermline will not go down in the pantheon of Fife derby classics.

While Tom Lang, Matty Todd and Lewis McCann all passed up excellent opportunities — ensuring both sides were left nursing frustration — the football was stodgy, punctuated by niggling fouls and lacking in quality.

However, that is not to say there were no talking points.

Courier Sport was at Stark’s Park for the third draw between the fierce foes this term.

642 minutes

Ethan Ross’ clinical low finish secured a memorable 2-1 victory for 10-man Raith Rovers at Falkirk in November, sealing passage to the next round of the Scottish Cup.

Little did anyone know that it would be Rovers’ final goal from open play in 2021.

Six matches and 642 minutes of football have now passed since John McGlynn’s men found the net, excepting the penalty kick which earned a 1-0 win over Kilmarnock.

Livingston loanee Matej Poplatnik has three goals

It is a stark statistic which crystallises a known issue.

Rovers need a proven goalscorer and are scouring the market to that end. Ethon Varian and Matej Poplatnik have scored a combined five goals in 51 appearances.

The positive Raith supporters can take is that, despite enduring an undeniable sticky patch, they remain just four points behind Championship leaders Arbroath — and have a manager who is acutely aware of the issues which must be solved.

Linked with a contentious swoop for David Goodwillie and with, by his own admission, ‘a list [of targets] a mile long’, McGlynn’s challenge is to find the right man. And that is an onerous one.

New arrivals

McGlynn displayed admirable candour when he admitted Rovers had ‘gone stale’.

His line-up against Dunfermline was indicative of that concern.

Not only did he switch formation to a 4-3-1-2, allowing him to pair Varian and Poplatnik up front, but he handed immediate debuts to Ben Williamson and Sam Stanton.

Debutant: Williamson in action

And the duo were bright sparks in a dour affair.

Stanton illustrated the courage and quality to drop deep, collect the ball under pressure and begin attacks. His passing was crisp and he made a couple of key interceptions.

Williamson, meanwhile, crunched into tackles and displayed tireless energy in the central area, ably drifting over the the right flank when necessary.

Given he has not played club football since October, it was no surprise to see the Rangers kid substituted after 60 minutes. He ran himself into the ground.

However, both players already look like excellent captures, immediately fitting into the Rovers structure and, between them, providing a comparable skill-set to the injured Brad Spencer and the departed Dylan Tait.

A fond farewell

From the moment Tait — a diminutive graduate of the Fife Elite Football Academy — arrived at Stark’s Park, he looked destined to make the grade.

Dylan Tait battles Celtic’s Tom Rogic

Making his debut at the age of 17, he displayed an uncommon awareness of space for one so young, could break the lines with incisive passing and was willing to snap into challenges with grizzled senior professionals twice his size.

Since that debut against Montrose in May 2019, Tait has made 81 appearances, scored eight goals and lifted the League 1 title.

He boasts vast experience for a player who only turned 20 in December.

His next challenge will be his toughest: impressing new boss Shaun Maloney and breaking into a fine Hibernian side.

But with Tait’s fearless attitude, peerless work ethic and undoubted potential, there is no reason to think he will not shine in Edinburgh.

How Rangers’ Kai Kennedy approval was key to Ben Williamson joining Raith Rovers

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