CRAIG WIGHTON is set to miss Athletic's crunch clash with Queen's Park this afternoon.

The 26-year-old is to see a specialist over a knee issue after he was forced off during last weekend's defeat at home to Greenock Morton.

Manager James McPake, however, has been boosted by the progress being made by some of his longer-term absentees as they step up their recoveries and a first team return.

Speaking to the media on Thursday McPake, who will also be without defender Sam Fisher, after he picked up an injury before the Morton game, said: "I think we have the same amount of players available but not the same players.

"Craig Wighton will see another specialist - we need to get to the bottom of it. You can see that he is not himself, so Craig will be out. One is back and two are out.

"The injuries have been tough. It was great today (Thursday) to see Alex Jakubiak, Matty Todd, Kane Ritchie-Hosler, Rhys Breen and Kyle Benedictus all down at training. They got put off the good pitch because we needed it to train on, but it was great to see them there. 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 is looking good and, with Bene, 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.

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"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.

"We could have a couple more back for the Arbroath game (next Saturday)."

McPake, meanwhile, has praised the "leadership" shown by his players in the wake of their five goal defeat by Morton, and said he was happy to be back playing at KDM Group East End Park so quickly.

"You can’t paper over it. We’re all disappointed but the one thing I will say is the leadership shown since the game has been good," he continued.

"It wasn’t there on the pitch and it wasn’t there on the sidelines either. It was just a bad day, myself included. I wasn’t great on the day, Dave (Mackay, assistant manager) wasn’t great on the day, the players weren’t great on the day.

Dunfermline Press: James McPake has been pleased with the reaction of his players following last weekend's defeat.James McPake has been pleased with the reaction of his players following last weekend's defeat. (Image: Craig Brown.)

"But the one thing I will say is the leadership from then in the group has been good. I can’t lie, because over the weekend and on Saturday night in particular, I was pretty worried about that.

"They are a young group. There is experience in it, and we’ll never use the age of the group as an excuse for results or injuries as an excuse, even though it’s hard, but the worry was, how are they going to respond to such a heavy defeat and such a poor performance.

"I’m not going to say I’m surprised with their reaction, because I know the characters in there, but I was apprehensive about coming in and seeing them getting going. Deep down as well, it hurts the players as much as anyone.

Dunfermline Press:

"I’ve been a player and a fan in football, but it hurts everybody and those players will be desperate to go out there and put on a performance.

"I’m genuinely delighted we’re back at home as well, because we owe the football club a performance. Never mind the fans who turned up or every Dunfermline fan, we owe Dunfermline Athletic Football Club a performance.

"But that’s not us, it’s not acceptable, and it’s us who can put it right. And that’s what we’re planning to do.

"The conversations have been good all week, in terms of what we can do, from David [Cook], Thomas [Meggle], the board. How can we help? And it’s been a case of, ‘let’s get back to work, let’s fix this collectively. That’s Thomas, David, the board, players, the coaching staff, everybody together, and if we go out and start the game properly, then the fans get right behind us as well.

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"Then we turn this back into a really tough place for the opposition, because it was far too easy for Morton."

When asked who had been most prominent in showing leadership since last weekend, McPake replied: "Bene (Kyle Benedictus) has been excellent, different class.

"He was actually pretty vocal after the game, which I don’t mind. Again, I’ve been a captain and an injured captain as well. It’s not easy, because you’re up there and watching it and he’s hurting. He’s hurting because he wants to be out there helping his team-mates.

"He’s loved his time here and he wants to be playing, but he was very good after the game.

"Then you have the conversations with the senior ones and say, ‘this is where we need you to show your leadership’. And then me and Dave have honest conversations with each other and say, ‘we need to show our leadership here as well’.

"Then the place gets better. I’m not coming in here and putting a front on, it’s been bubbly.

"Maybe that’s not what people want to hear. They maybe want to here we get the whips out and batter them and run them.

"No, you just get back to work and take your time to get over it. But you know you need to move on quickly. You can’t let it linger.

"The place has been bubbly. That’s okay but we need to see that personality and that drive to go out there.

"It’s going to be tough for them on Saturday, we know that. They might go out and make a bad pass early on in the game and the fans, rightly so, will have a wee moan.

"But they’ll see soon enough, when we get after the ball. We’ve said we need to do the right things and get after the ball and bang into people, that side of the game that we didn’t do at all against Morton.

"We didn’t compete with Morton, which was really disappointing, because in the two games before we’ve been the better team by far in those two games.

"That can happen, I get you can lose games to teams, but it was the level we lost that game compared to when we’ve played them twice this season already.

"We handled their physicality in the other two games, and we handled a real threat up at Tannadice the week before.

"So, that was the annoying bit - but also that’s the positive side, that we know that’s there and it’s just getting it out again.

"I know as soon as we do that this crowd will get back behind us. That’s football.

"It was a disappointing one for everyone and we all need to show our leadership qualities now. Throughout the week the senior players have done that, and the young kids have driven training, just with their enthusiasm and their love for training.

"And the board and David have been excellent as well, and everyone in the staff has been great about the place.

"It’s up to the 11 picked to start the game and the subs who come on, and the coaching staff, to put this right on Saturday.

"We might not start the game well but if we get ourselves into the game and give the crowd something then this place will soon turn back into our favour."