Manager’s preview: Ayr United v Dunfermline

Manager James McPake shared his thoughts ahead of Saturday’s challenging away fixture against Ayr United, giving an update on his injured players ahead of what will be a busy schedule.

On Ayr United’s Form:
“It is going to be a tough game, their last two results – 4-4 in a great game, for the neutral, against Raith and then a good 1-0 win over Airdrie. The job Lee Bullen did going in there last year was incredible. They have started picking up wins now, the performances are more like what he is expecting so it is going to be a tough game to go down there.”

Learning from Past Performance:
“We were disappointing when they came here, it was a really poor performance so we need to be better. They have good experience in their team, they have some good players who can hurt you in certain areas as well.”

On Ayr as a Venue:
“It is a place I like going to, it is a proper old football ground if the weather is alright. From what I’ve seen their pitch looks really good.”

Facing a Hectic Schedule:
The Pars face three matches in eight days. James agreed that’s busy:-

“Anytime in Scotland in particular, going Saturday, Tuesday, Friday that’s busy regardless of who you are playing. I think even players, regardless of the time of year, they want to be playing. It is good when you are a player but on this side it is just cramming a wee bit more into the time you have got on the training pitch and your analysis stuff. It is enjoyable if the results and performances are okay.  The fixtures come out early enough and we are used to these scenarios at certain times.”

Christmas Break and Squad Rotation:
“I think Christmas is the important one for them and if you can find a way to give them Christmas Day then I think for everyone, players, staff and the full football club then you get the benefit out of that. It is an important time for even the ones without kids but now it’s just business as usual like it would be for any Saturday, Tuesday, Friday game. We will just approach it that way.”

Workload Management:
Is there scope to rotate the squad, do you have sufficient numbers to give options to mix and match?

“I would normally say that we have that option but I’m wary of saying that just with the way things have been going and the injuries that we have been picking up. How we can do this and do that because come Saturday at quarter to five the full picture could have changed again in terms of injuries. If you just look at that last game when we had two come off. 

“What we would probably say is that we pick the teams for each game and I think that would be the case if everyone was fit as well. Where Ayr United can hurt us, where we can hurt them and then obviously Raith coming here and then we go to Hampden to play Queen’s Park on the Friday night. 

“Probably because you go Tuesday, Friday but that was all done at the start of December in terms of how much we are trying to train and where are there days when you can do a bit more. The workload that they do will be altered only in intensity really.”

Chris Hamilton Injury:
“We are delighted that Hammy doesn’t need surgery on his fractured cheek bone.  He has been in running but we will go by the timescale the specialist says. We have had different ones speak to us which range from days to weeks but we do need the specialist’s opinion on that. It’s probably the only downside of this period, the specialist places are not open as they normally are, so specialist appointments are tougher.

“With where we are at he will be out this weekend. He has been running but nothing contact. Tuesday I’m genuinely not sure, I think it will all come down to if we can get him to see the other specialist. He was away this morning (to Kirkcaldy) and obviously we need a mask fitted to his face. 

“I wouldn’t rule Tuesday out if I’m honest. I know Chris is not wanting to rule Saturday out but the likelihood is that I’ll rule that one out. We would never put him in any danger. He didn’t want to come off last Saturday, it was the doctor’s call when he saw the dent in his cheek. He feels like he could play but we have to look at the bigger picture. There is no concussion or anything like that but there is a weakness in that structure so we definitely need the mask fitted.”

Lewis McCann – hamstring
“We are still waiting on the scan results for Lewis but he is feeling positive and the injury is looking positive. I don’t think we were overcautious with that. I think everybody saw the way he pulled up. He was stiff after the game but in the last couple of days he has been feeling really good. We are just waiting on the report from the scan so we know exactly what we are dealing with. 

“We are optimistic but we have been here before with certain players. In terms of the strength in it, it is nowhere near what Rhys Breen’s was or what Lewis McCann’s was when he did it at Clyde.  Fingers crossed the report comes back and matches how he is looking clinically.”

Could Bene step back in as captain:
In Chris Hamilton’s absence another captain will be required unless Kyle Benedictus is ready to step back in. 

“Bene is working away well. He has a bit of stiffness in his body which is expected for the load he has been doing following the two serious injuries. We will wait and see but Sam Fisher is back in training and looking good. The good thing with him, he has probably done as much as Bene this week in terms of training but because of the time Bene has been out we need to be careful with him. 

“Sam missed a couple of weeks before we played Arbroath here, he came back in, got concussion and he has been ten days since. Sam is good to go.”

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