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Dunfermline boss James McPake discusses missing out on Dundee defender Lee Ashcroft and what happens next in signing hunt

Ashcroft opted to join rivals Raith Rovers on loan instead.

Dunfermline Athletic F.C. manager James McPake stretches out his arms on the sidelines during a game.
Dunfermline manager James McPake. Image: SNS.

James McPake is convinced Dunfermline did all they could to persuade former skipper Lee Ashcroft to return to the club on loan.

But, with the Dundee defender instead choosing rivals Raith Rovers, the Pars boss insists he is still determined to strengthen his defensive options.

Ashcroft was targeted after it became clear he would be allowed to leave Dens Park this month.

But the 30-year-old has plumped for a promotion battle with Raith instead of a relegation fight with his old side.

Lee Ashcroft sits in the directors' box at Stark's Park in a Raith Rovers strip.
Dundee defender Lee Ashcroft has joined Raith Rovers on loan for the rest of the season. Image: Tony Fimister / Raith Rovers.

It is undoubtedly a blow for the East End Park outfit, who wanted the former fans’ favourite to add experience to a youthful rearguard shorn of skipper Kyle Benedictus because of injury.

With Sam Fisher and Rhys Breen also currently out of action, the centre of Fifers’ defence is missing first-team knowhow.

And McPake remains intent on lining up an alternative before the loan window closes at the end of the month.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s trip to face Partick Thistle, he said: “Our offer was accepted by Dundee. We had numerous conversations with [Dundee manager] Tony Docherty and with the player as well.

“It’s football, it comes down to a decision.

Dunfermline boss James McPake: ‘We move on’

“There is nothing else that I could have done, nothing else the football club could have done to try and sign the player.

“The decision was made, so we move on.

“I have missed out on plenty players, I have signed plenty players.

Chris Kane is a prime example. Queen’s Park were wanting him but he decided to come here, which we are delighted about. That’s the way football works.

“Had we been in the position where Raith are in the league would we have got the player? I don’t know, it is a decision for him and I never asked him that question.

Kyle Benedictus sports a bandage after the Dunfermline skipper was involved in a head knock vs Dundee United.
Dunfermline skipper Kyle Benedictus has managed just ten appearances this season because of injury. Image: SNS

“When he told me his decision I wished him good luck and that’s it.”

Without a win in nine games and now second bottom of the Championship, McPake desperately needs an experienced defender for the remainder of the campaign.

Cardiff City duo Malachi Fagan-Walcott and Xavier Benjamin were signed on loan last month but both lack first-team games.

McPake insists he was always considering other names in the bid to beef up his squad.

He explained: “We had a couple in mind anyway. I will not lie, we wanted to bring Lee Ashcroft to the club. He has been here before and there is a bit of history with the club.

‘Working away’

“He has been the club captain, I had worked with him and we had a pretty successful time. I know what he can bring to a football club.

“We also had to have other people there working away looking at them [alternatives].

“Some of them are ones that you wouldn’t expect to leave their clubs, but you just never know with eight days of a window to go.

“We are in constant touch with the agents and other managers. We will see what happens over the next day or two.”

McPake added: “I think we need a bit of experience in there with Benedictus being out for so long.

Dunfermline Athletic defender Malachi Fagan-Walcott is full of smiles as he wheels away after scoring his first senior goal.
Malachi Fagan-Walcott joined Dunfermline last month on loan from Cardiff City but is unexperienced. Image: Craig Brown / Dunfermline Athletic F.C.

“You can get away with it for so long but then add in your next most experienced centre back, Sam Fisher, he is out as well. That’s the difficulty there.

“The ones that we are looking at in that position certainly are experienced.

“You could go and pick a kid up from any of the clubs in the Premiership who could probably come in and be a good player.

“But I don’t know if that kid coming in would be any better than Malachi Fagan-Walcott, Ewan Otoo and people like that.

“We will wait and see. There are loads of profiles there but not many available just due to where we are in the window.”