For a second week in a row Raith were forced to settle for a point against established Championship opponents as the Friday night fixture versus Ayr United finished in a 0-0 draw. The match proved to be an end to end affair as expected: Raith dominated possession and were praised by the BBC pundits for their ability to quickly move the ball in transition up the pitch. At the other end, Ayr created numerous chances with Michael Moffat having the lion's share.
Ayr opened the stronger of the two teams and Jamie MacDonald did brilliantly to stop Moffat from getting the opener following a cutback from Luke McCowan. From there, Rovers began to grow into the game with the likes of Hendry, Armstrong and Ross all showing signs that they could cause problems. Manny Duku was unlucky when he flashed a shot wide of the post. Similarly, Kyle Benedictus also came close when he put the ball wide when shooting on the turn.
At half time, Rovers looked the better team but Ayr had arguably had the best chance of the game. The second half was a much tighter affair. Kieran MacDonald had less success going forward and Raith had some moments of sloppiness in possession. That's not to say the visitors weren't creating chances: Manny Duku had the ball in the back of the net but replay showed that the linesman's offside decision was justified.
Michael Moffat continued to be a thorn in the side of the Rovers defence but Jamie MacDonald again did well to stop in him when through one on one. Aaron Muirhead crashed a header off the bar in the later stages of the game with both teams trying to break the deadlock. Duku made way for Lokotsch but for all they saw of the ball Rovers failed to capitalise or threaten Sinisalo's goal.
Ultimately, the game fizzled out in a draw. Despite this it was still an entertaining watch. Neither team looked content with a point: Ayr will be frustrated at missing some very clear but chances. Rovers will be disappointed that they didn't do anything more meaningful to trouble the Honest Men with all their possession.
So what can we take from the match? Here's three things we've learned:
Rolling back the years: The veterans were the stars of the show
In the run up to the game, a lot of the focus was based around the form of Dutch forward Manny Duku and how John McGlynn had successfully built a young, attacking team with players like Hendry, Ross and Tait. All of the players mentioned deserve a huge amount of praise for their performances throughout the first quarter of this season: as a Rovers fan it's been thoroughly enjoyable to see us return to the Championship as top scorers in the league and not look out of our depth in the slightest.
And while all these players deserve praise, last night saw the plaudits go to the most experienced players on the pitch. Duku had a quiet game although he did look likely when called upon: it's a credit to Jack Baird who marshaled the forward well. Similarly, the younger players all attracted attention for their willingness to pass the ball around and their work ethic throughout the game but ultimately couldn't find a way to break the Ayr defence.
When it came for the time for BBC to choose their man of the match they almost automatically went to veteran keeper Jamie MacDonald. In previous years, this is the type of game where Rovers fans might have left saying "We've been let down by poor finishing and defences lapses". MacDonald did fantastic to stop Michael Moffat on various occasions and was a key component in Raith leaving the notoriously difficult Somerset Park with a point.
Similarly, Ayr's standout performer was undoubtedly Michael Moffat. At 35, the forward still looks in fantastic shape and his work ethic hasn't changed at all since the sides last met. He continues to be a nuisance for defenders and his ability to find space or cause issues is tremendous.
Moffat is a player who seems to be universally liked among lower league fans. He's the type of player which fans want at their club: it might not be the most original statement but fans enjoy seeing a player who will wholeheartedly give themselves to their club's cause and battle for a full 90 minutes.
New contracts will be on the Christmas wish list for Rovers fans
It seems like a lifetime ago when Rovers announced in August the signings of Manny Duku and Frankie Musonda. Both signings where met with a degree of surprise and skepticism from fans: John McGlynn hasn't really been known historically for signing players from out of the unknown. Both players arrived in Scotland and few, if any, supporters would have been able to tell you much about each of them.
Fast-forward four months to the day since Musonda penned his one year deal with the club and he is now a standout performer in the team. Having started by deputising at left back for the injured MacDonald, Musonda is now playing as a centre half and last night's coverage showed another assured display. One thing which was noticeable throughout the game was how vocal the ex-Luton defender is: the BBC mics allowed for fans to clearly hear him talking to the players about him. It's brilliant to hear such a young player communicating so comfortably throughout the match.
Similarly, Duku has been a complete revelation for the club. A fan's favourite, Duku has already found the net on 8 occasions including last week's opener in the derby. However, Rovers now find themselves in a difficult situation as January approaches.
With both players on 1 year deals, it wouldn't be a surprise to see pre-contract moves being touted before long. Going into next Summer, it wouldn't be a surprise to see either player move on to a clubs who could potentially offer a larger wage and a move to a higher level. Both players have generally played most of their careers in English non-league so fans wouldn't grudge them to take any chances given. However, it goes without saying that Rovers will no doubt be reluctant to lose them and hoping they can pen a new deal.
But it isn't just the newer signings the Stark's Park faithful will be fretting over. Midfielder Regan Hendry is also out of contract in the Summer. Having made the step up to the Championship comfortably with some outstanding performances, you'd imagine clubs will be keeping an eye on Hendry's performances. Hendry is similar to Dylan Tait in that fans will have high hopes for his career. However, they'd also be hoping that Raith might tempt him into a new deal while also outlining that they'd not stand in his way should any bids come in.
John McGlynn's return to the dugout can only be a good thing
One of the best sights to come from Friday's fixture was John McGlynn making his first appearance in the dugout after recent surgery. McGlynn has been back for a few games: he watched the game at Central Park against Cowdenbeath and was in the stand for the match against Dunfermline. But yesterday saw him make his first return to the dugout. In typical McGlynn style, he was pictured wearing a baseball cap on top of a beanie: social media had a bit of light hearted fun over the matter but Rovers fans won't care in the slightest.
While he's been away, Paul Smith has ensured that the club has remained stable. In a time where other Championship clubs are seeing their managers leave under questionable circumstances (we're looking at you Morton), it was reassuring to have such a familiar figure to deputise and ensure the club didn't go off course. Results have remained solid in this period: in spite of the loss at Inverness, the performances against Dunfermline and Ayr have shown Rovers will go toe to toe with teams. They certainly should be looking to try to have a crack at the playoffs.
McGlynn is notorious for his work ethic and meticulous planning for matches. It's brilliant to see him back at the club: having such experience in the dugout can only be beneficial. Since his return to the club in September 2018, he has only enhanced his reputation and defined fan's expectations of the standards that are expected at the club.