Jamie MacDonald’s decision to join Raith Rovers last July was not a tacit acknowledgement that his top-flight career was over.
It was geographically convenient — MacDonald and his family live in Edinburgh, where he became a Hearts hero after winning the 2012 Scottish Cup — and afforded guaranteed first-team football under a manager he has known for 21 years, John McGlynn.
But, make no mistake, the former Falkirk and Kilmarnock number one still believes in his ability to thrive in the Premiership and, on the evidence of Tuesday evening, will do his utmost to get there with Rovers.
During a 0-0 stalemate in which few players shone, MacDonald was a standout at East End Park. His finger-tip save to deny Kevin O’Hara in the first period was sensational, while later stops from Ewan Henderson and Dom Thomas were key.
Rovers will now fancy their chances of finishing the job in Kirkcaldy on Saturday and teeing up a playoff semi-final showdown with Dundee.
“We all have ambition and I want to get back to playing in the Premiership,” said the 35-year-old. “I still feel I can play in the Premiership. I came here for other reasons but, now I’m here, I’m chomping at the bit to play in the top league.
“All the boys should be as well.
“We could have the crowds back next season and could be playing in front of 50,000 or 60,000 at Ibrox and Parkhead. That has got to be the aim.
“I’ve been at that level before and when you lack ambition to get back there, that’s when you should probably call it a day.
“I’ve always wanted to do the best I can. I’ve enjoyed being here and the target is promotion.”
MacDonald’s determination is palpable, but there is no sense of pressure accompanying it.
While those within the Dunfermline boardroom feel they are built for the top-flight — and are hungry to secure a return as they look to engineer a bright future alongside their German investors — Rovers are a newly-promoted side. Only one of these teams was expected to be in this position when the league commenced in October.
“When I joined at the beginning of the season I didn’t really know what to expect,” continued MacDonald. “The club had come up from League 1 and you’re probably thinking the first season will be about staying in the division and then going from there.
“We’ve had a fantastic season. We ended up bitterly disappointed not to finish second — which I think a lot of our play deserved — but we are delighted to be in the playoffs and there’s still a chance of progressing.
“We know it’s going to be difficult to go all the way — but what a chance for all of the teams involved.”
‘Difficult’ is something of an understatement.
Since the inception of this latest iteration of playoffs in 2013/14, no club has ever finished third or fourth in the Championship and then gone on to win promotion. Only Rangers and Dundee United have even reached the final from that position.
However, this is an atypical season — rather emphasised by the two biggest Fife derbies in 10 years being played out in empty stadiums — and MacDonald reckons fatigue is not the killer it once was.
“We know the stats are against us,” said MacDonald. “Even the team which finishes second [in the Championship] has only gone up twice.
“Six games in three weeks is tough — but it’s been a short season so we’ve not had 36 league games and Challenge Cup matches, or cup runs. The legs will be there and hopefully we can get through Saturday and prove it.”