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Dunfermline boss James McPake talks Xavier Benjamin debut, reason for substitution and injury good news

The Pars manager has backed Benjamin to recover from debut drubbing

Dunfermline Athletic manager James McPake.
Dunfermline Athletic manager James McPake. Image: SNS.

Dunfermline manager James McPake has backed new signing Xavier Benjamin to recover from the nightmare of his debut against Morton.

And the Pars boss has absolved the youngster of blame for the 5-0 hammering, insisting he would have preferred to break the defender in more gently.

The on-loan Cardiff City stopper was thrown in at the deep end for his bow just 24 hours after arriving in Scotland and after only one training session with his new team-mates.

Just 36 hours before kick-off, the former Fulham trainee was on his way to Bristol in the dead of night to catch an early morning flight north.

Xavier Benjamin joined Dunfermline on loan just 15 minutes before the transfer deadline. Image: Craig Brown / DAFC.

It was hardly ideal preparation and perhaps no surprise Benjamin did not look comfortable as the Fifers capitulated to plunge to eighth in the Championship table ahead of Saturday’s crucial visit of Queen’s Park.

But McPake has revealed the youngster was substituted due to injury and NOT because of his performance in a flustered and flailing back line that failed to cope with Morton’s attack.

He said: “You can never tell how someone will play but he has been in now for a week, in and around the group.

“The boy is a good player so I don’t think any blame can be laid at him for Saturday.

He flew up Friday morning and trained, but he had played on the Monday of that week so he was ready to play.

‘Desperate to play’

“In the circumstances, had we had a bigger squad, in an ideal world you might have bedded him in a little.

“It was a decision we made and the lad was desperate to play.

“Probably something I didn’t speak about after the game, just because it never came into my head, was we never took him off because he was any worse than anyone else.

“We took him off because his hamstrings were tightening up, probably with the travelling up and the lack of sleep.

“But he is fine and has been good this week.

Xavier Benjamin gets on the ball for Dunfermline in his debut against Morton.
Xavier Benjamin endured a difficult Dunfermline debut against Morton. Image: SNS.

“The boys got round about him. That is the key thing, the group is that tight and strong.

“Setbacks hurt but they are that good a group that they can take them and recover from them.

“Speaking to [academy coach] Darren Purse down at Cardiff, he [Benjamin] is a proper defender, he is vocal and, for someone such a young age , he is a leader.

“I felt for him. I have been in that position myself, where you are flung straight in and it doesn’t go well for you.

“But I have complete faith he will recover to be a good player for this football club for the rest of the season.”

Injury update

Benjamin and Cardiff clubmate Malachi Fagan-Walcott were both drafted in during the transfer window due to a clutch of injuries to Dunfermline players.

Striker Craig Wighton is the latest and he will see a specialist in the coming days.

But there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for the Pars after some key players progressed their recoveries in training this week.

McPake added: “The injuries have been tough, but it was great today to see Alex Jakubiak, Matty Todd, Kane Ritchie-Hosler, Rhys Breen and Kyle Benedictus all down at training.

Kane Ritchie-Hosler writhes in agony after dislocating his shoulder in Dunfermline's recent 3-0 win against Arbroath. Image: SNS.
Kane Ritchie-Hosler suffered a shoulder injury against Arbroath in November but is on the way back. Image: SNS.

“Matty Todd was kicking the ball and actually doing a drill with me and Lewis McCann.

Kane is now kicking the ball, he just needs to take the set time for that to heal.

“Jak [Jakubiak] is looking good and with Bene [Benedictus] we need to speak to Professor Haddad again in London. He has to have a scan just to make sure and then he could really accelerate.

“It was a boost for everybody seeing them down there. It was quite surprising to me this morning when I got told just how many of them would be down there and working.”