'I can still play in the Premiership' - Raith Rovers goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald aiming for promotion via the play-offs
When Jamie MacDonald decided to sign for League One champions Raith Rovers last summer, he was not turning his back on his top flight aspirations.
Despite rejecting an offer to stay at Kilmarnock on reduced terms, the veteran goalkeeper retained a firm belief that he was still capable of performing in the Premiership something he is determined to do with his current employers next season as they look to win promotion through the play-offs.
The 35-year-old former Hearts stopper showed his enduring class in Tuesday’s quarter-final first leg against Dunfermline Athletic at East End Park with a stunning fingertip save to deny Kevin O’Hara. The tie ended goalless to set up a winner-takes-all showdown at Stark’s Park on Saturday, with Dundee awaiting the winners in the semi-final.
For MacDonald, after a campaign of closed doors matches, the prospect of playing in front of big crowds again in the top flight is a huge motivation.
“We all have ambition. I want to get back to playing in the Premiership. I still feel I can play in the Premiership,” he said.
“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 or 60,000 at Ibrox and Parkhead. That’s got to be the aim.
“When you lack ambition 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.”
While determined to go up, MacDonald insists there is no pressure on him or Raith to do so, given the Kirkcaldy club’s status as overachievers in their first season back in the Championship.
“We’ve had a fantastic season,” he said. “When I joined at the beginning of the season I didn’t really know what to expect.
“The club had come up from League One and you’re probably thinking the first season would be about staying in the division and then going from there.
“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 play-offs and there’s still a chance of progressing.
“We know it’s going to be difficult, but what a chance for all of the teams involved.
“There’s maybe no pressure on us but we are not just here to take part.”
To get promoted Raith will need to become play-off pioneers – no Championship club has ever made it up through the current system after finishing the season outside the top two.
With three gruelling two-legged ties to negotiate, MacDonald accepts the odds are stacked against John McGlynn’s side, but on the back of a shortened 27-game season, he hopes fatigue will be less of an issue.
"It’s going to be difficult. We know the stats are against us. The second team has only gone up twice,” he said.
“It’s six games in three weeks 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.”
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