Dundee United boss Jim Goodwin insists he is “not surprised in the slightest” by Raith Rovers’ never-say-die Championship charge.
The Tangerines remain one of only three unbeaten sides in Scottish and English league football, yet Rovers have kept pace at the summit of the second tier – illustrating remarkable resilience and an uncanny knack for late goals.
I said before a ball was kicked that I felt Raith Rovers were slipping under the radar.
That was exemplified on Saturday when they fought back from 1-0 down against Inverness with five minutes to play, claiming a pivotal 2-1 triumph.
Ian Murray’s men produced a similar feat away to Queen’s Park on November 11, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory in the dying embers – all while down to ten men.
Goodwin believes Raith’s rise is testament to investment, quality and character – and should serve as a “reminder” to anyone who expected the Terrors to romp to promotion at a canter.
“I’m not surprised in the slightest (by Rovers’ form),” said Goodwin. “I said before a ball was kicked that I felt Raith Rovers were slipping under the radar.
“They’ve had significant investment off the pitch. They have good players all over the park – experience in the side and some excellent attacking players.
“They score plenty of goals and have a real resilience about them. At Queen’s Park, they were 1-0 down with 10 men and five minutes to go. They manage to win that. Similar again up at Inverness at the weekend.”
“Some people might look at that and say: “they are getting a wee bit of luck with the last-minute penalties and things like that”. I look at it the other way. It proves there is a strong mindset within their group.”
He added: “It is just a reminder that we’re not going to have this league all our own way. We know the expectation on us, but people are now starting to sit up and take notice of what a good job Ian Murray and his players are doing.”
Rovers, who host Partick Thistle on Friday night, could usurp United in top spot – for 24 hours at least – after the Tangerines’ visit to Morton was called off due to a frozen pitch last Saturday.
However, the Irishman is adamant the outcome was no “disaster”.
United were able to source a viable surface at the Madras College in St Andrews, affording them the chance to play an 11 vs 11 match.
A couple of players nursing “niggles” were also able to rest up.
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) December 2, 2023
“The weather wasn’t ideal, but we managed to organise a pitch at the Madras School around the corner,” said Goodwin. “Their astro was playable and we managed to get some good time on there.
“We had a proper 11 vs 11 game and kept the legs ticking over. The boys trained really well.
“There’s always a frustration when a fixture is called off. You have worked on the plan – on a lot of different things in relation to the game. But it’s just one of those things. It wasn’t a disaster.
“We had one or two little niggles as well, so that gave us an opportunity to get those players right for the weekend.”