JAMES MCPAKE was delighted to welcome two of his star men back from injury on Friday night and has heaped praise on how they've handled being on the sidelines.

Matty Todd and Kane Ritchie-Hosler both made their first team returns from injury as substitutes during Friday night's defeat against Dundee United, bringing an end to a significant lay-off.

Midfielder Todd came on 10 minutes into the second half for his first Championship minutes of the season after suffering an ankle injury during a Viaplay Cup match with Annan Athletic in July, which led to him having an ankle operation.

Team-mate Ritchie-Hosler, who joined the club on a permanent basis in the summer following a successful loan from Rangers, came off the bench for just his second league appearance of the season.

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During the summer, he also suffered a setback in training, that required ankle surgery, returning in a game at Inverness Caledonian Thistle in September, before injuring his knee in training, again requiring surgery.

"I thought Matty looked excellent when he came on with at real running power. He has confidence to take people on, confidence to go and try and make things happen," McPake said.

"It will take him a wee while to get up to speed. We know how important he is, not just to the team, but the entire football club. When he is playing, he is a fantastic young player with lots to his game, and he is working hard every day to get better.

"Having Kane back as well just gives us that other option because he has that real quality as well. The squad is looking better and over the next few weeks we hope it stays that way.

"It's an unfortunate one for both of them, and Kane in particular. He's had the double blow, really – getting a wee taste coming back, in and then back out, off the back of, personally for them, a successful campaign last year. I think both would say it was their best season to date, a lot of good play, and a lot of experience of enjoying first-team football, to then get through a full pre-season and then get injured.

"You can look at it in two ways. If they don't do the pre-season then everybody says you're chasing, and I believe in that. Pre-seasons are really important. So, they got that in.

"To get injured and then watch your team-mates going out... I know what the two of them are like. They're desperate to be playing, desperate to be training.

"That was tough, but then on the other side of it, I think character-wise, what they can learn from that – because this game, it does that to you, you're on a high and then all of a sudden you get a heavy defeat or an injury, whatever - and that will hopefully continue for them for 10 or 15 years, however long they've got left, because with doing that they are involved still and they're making good careers for themselves.

"I think it will stand them in good stead and the next time they get injured, I just hope it's not as long next time."

McPake continued: "In terms of how they've handled themselves through the rehab, both of them have been at every game as well, which isn't a rule.

"I know at some clubs they make them go. I've been that injured player that been made to go. Sometimes you just need a break; you're working hard all week on your rehab, and sometimes it's the last thing you want to do, sit and watch your team-mates, because you're desperate to be out there.

"So credit to those two, and even the rest who have been injured. There is a real spirit in there. They come to the games, they help their team-mates on that, and they're bubbly about the place. That surprised me because, particularly Kane, he had that injury, got back and had another two surgeries basically after that. He still walked about with a smile on his face, Matty as well.

"That speaks volumes for their characters, and even going back to I think their parents and stuff as well, and the way their parents are looking after them because they're still young. Then the spirit that is in this club, that all points to that as well.

"I'm delighted they're back and hopefully they can stay fit."

Midfielder, Joe Chalmers, said the players can feel the boost of having the duo back, adding: "It's great to see them back. Matty did well when he came on and we could see what we've missed with him being out, and obviously it's good to see Kane back on as well.

"They were two massive players for us last season and I think they'll have a big impact with the games we've got left to come. They'll play a big part for us."