Raith & Partick set for crunch play-off - live on BBC

Raith Rovers enter the play-off fray on Tuesday after an 11-day hiatus during which Partick Thistle edged out Airdrieonians by the odd goal in seven.

Thistle's quarter-final ties were pretty high-octane affairs and it will be interesting to see just how much energy has been sapped from their players.

Will they be sharper than their opponents because of those games or will the rest have benefitted Ian Murray’s men? We will soon find out - live on BBC Scotland.

What the break will have done is allow Murray to get some players back fit for what he will hope are two more weeks of the season.

Dylan Easton, Josh Mullin and Zak Rudden were all absent from the squad that beat Arbroath 5-0 on 3 May but are expected to be available for the game at Firhill.

The bench for that game featured only three outfield players - with Dylan Corr added to the injury list as he dislocated his shoulder in the first half - and the Raith boss will know he needs as big a squad as possible for what could potentially be four games in under two weeks.

Liam Dick and Keith Watson also missed out, but if all five are fit, Murray’s squad will have a much stronger look to it.

While Raith return to the play-offs for the first time since losing to Dundee in the 2021 semi-final, Thistle are involved for the third year in a row, cruising past Ayr United 8-0 on aggregate at the same stage last season.

It is inconceivable that they will blow Raith away with such ease.

Indeed they have drawn two and lost two against the Fifers this season, including an amazing 4-3 defeat at Stark’s Park in which they trailed by two then led 3-2 before Raith mounted one of their famous late rallies to take all three points.

I’d gladly take another couple of games like that - for the right to meet Ross County or St Johnstone for a place in next season's Premiership - over the next few days.

Thistle just managed to get the better of Airdrie in the previous round in a tie that could have gone either way. Rhys McCabe’s side were left to lament a controversial opener and a cheap, albeit brilliantly finished second and just came up short in the end.

I suspect these next two games will be similarly close and hard-fought as Thistle look to end a six-year absence from the top flight while Rovers are trying to get back to the big time for the first time since their relegation in 1997.

That brought to a close a very special period in the club’s history that included the famous League Cup triumph over Celtic at Ibrox and subsequently a Uefa Cup meeting with Bayern Munich. Halcyon days indeed.

Now Rovers fans are dreaming of a return following a terrific season in which they pushed Dundee United almost all the way and out-performed just about everybody’s pre-season expectations.

Murray, who laid the foundations for McCabe’s success at Airdrie, has himself built on the pleasing brand of football played by Raith under John McGlynn and after a difficult spell with St Mirren early in his managerial career, is establishing a burgeoning reputation.

Like McCabe, he seems destined to manage in the top flight one way or the other.

Kris Doolan’s achievements at Thistle should not be underplayed, though. Perhaps because he took them to the brink of the Premiership in his first few months in charge, the fact he has once again got them to the play-offs has been almost taken for granted.

But to do so after losing players like Ross Docherty and Kevin Holt in the summer was not a foregone conclusion and he will naturally have designs on going one better than last year.

It is once again a fascinating match-up and Tuesday’s encounter has the makings of another belter.