Manager previews Ayr United

As Dunfermline Athletic gear up to face Ayr United this weekend, manager James McPake was in a confident mood, while also showing due respect for his opposition, especially given their manager’s history with Dunfermline.

Reflecting on the week leading up to this encounter, James stated, “It has been a decent week in terms of training. The players have worked really hard again, and although all that matters is the Saturday, the work done in training is vital, especially after the performance at Partick.”

A friendly with St Mirren further bolstered the team’s preparation. “We went and played a friendly at St Mirren so there has been no dip in training or dip in that game. Since that St Mirren game the training has been very good aided by the fact that there are players coming back as well. That’s only going to make training better because the more quality players that you have got then the better quality training that you get.”

After two blank Saturdays the manager felt that the St Mirren game came at a really good time:-

“It allowed us to go really strong down at Paisley and for the ones coming back I think we got out of that game what we needed. It was a toss up, do we have a really productive training where we can get work done on the training pitch or do we play them in the reserve game on the Tuesday and then they couldn’t train on the Wednesday.

“Paul Allan, Alex Jakubiak and Rhys Breen all got enough out of the game down in Paisley to help them. Paul and Rhys are obviously different from Alex. Alex is just topping up his minutes. This will probably go against what most people think, I’m not a great believer in the saying that you need to play a lot of games to get match fit. There are ways in training that you can replicate the load obviously not with the stress that you get in matches but I could argue on the back of that a bounce game or a reserve game doesn’t bring the same stress as playing for three points in a league under pressure on a Saturday.  We took the decision to use as much of the week as we could and it has gone pretty well.”

James revealed that both Rhys Breen and Paul Allan (pictured above) are in the squad for tomorrow’s fixture, while Sam Fisher, who has dealt with a minor injury sustained against St Mirren, is also available for selection. The good news continues on the injury front. 

“Injuries are part of it but it is looking good now. Kyle Benedictus is back running, Matthew Todd is back running, Kane Ritchie-Hosler is jogging at a slower pace – the other two are a wee bit ahead of Kane. Bene is very close and obviously we have Deniz back as well. You just look at that squad and how well the lads have done without that group of players, it is really important to touch on but when that group come in we are going to be a very healthy squad.”

Turning his attention to Ayr United, James said, “Over the last five league games only a point separates the two of us on form. They lost to Raith Rovers but got a very good result in their last game to beat Airdrie at Airdrie and we all know how hard a place that is to go.”

McPake was full of praise for Ayr United’s manager, Lee Bullen, not just for his current achievements but also his past association with Dunfermline. Lee was a Dunfermline youth player who left aged 18 but re-joined in 1999 aged 28. A versatile back, midfielder, and on occasions a striker, he made 119 appearances over five seasons at Dunfermline and James added:-

“ I have a lot of respect for Lee Bullen and what he has done. I watched that league closely last year, they were fantastic and he brought the excitement back to that football club. I am not being disrespectful but don’t know the last time they were in a position with two or three league games to go to get to the Premier League. He did a fantastic job last year with Graeme Mathie going in as well (as Managing Director).

“Lee Bullen was a favourite player here and I hope he gets a good welcome. This is a special football club in that way, you see the respect for their heroes and fans favourites and that continues. It is not always the case in football but I have found here anytime someone comes back and even when Todorov and Macca came for their medals there was a great reception and rightly so. He will get applauded at the start of the game and end of the game and that’s fine. We just hope he goes away with a disappointing result.  In terms of the job that he has done, I think that he has done really well and being a former Dunfermline player he deserves that reception. ”

Expressing his eagerness for the match, McPake said, “I’m looking forward to the game because it has felt like it has been a while especially here. We want to be back here, we love playing here in front of our own fans. We are looking forward to it and I’m sure the fans are desperate to get us back and for us to prove to them that Partick Thistle was just a blip.

“That doesn’t mean winning the game proves that but with a level of performance that does and that real desire to play for the shirt which we always say we do. Sadly that was lacking a bit at Partick but that’s a collective thing. That’s not just on the players, that’s on myself, Dave, the rest of the staff and the group of players. Those supporters at Maryhill that day didn’t deserve that because it was a fantastic backing.

“Our aim is to go out there and prove to them that we are consistent like we have shown in every other game apart from that. We believe if we do that then we have a very high chance of a positive result.”

When asked if the team would pick up from where they left off against Morton, James confidently replied, “When we are working hard, when we are creating chances, when we are doing the right things, then this crowd gets right behind us. It makes it really good to be involved at this club on a Saturday when we are doing it that way. It is collective, we need to have the players ready to go out from the start and have that desire to do well for the fans in here and the ones watching.

“It is not trying to butter it up. I said it in my first interview, the guarantee is that every time we go out on that pitch, we leave nothing out there. In my opinion we didn’t give quite everything, the players tried hard, we just weren’t ourselves that day at Maryhill. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen again. If we perform at the levels we can, then we will come away with a positive result.”

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