Irishman Pepper was left in a crumpled heap following an innocuous pass and forced to leave the field 52 minutes into Tuesday’s Development League West rout of Clyde, a match in which he had earlier scored as the Ton won 8-1.
The hammer blow came three Under-20 games into his comeback from a lay-off that stretched back to the 3-0 win away at Hibs on 24 February, and manager Duffy’s thoughts were for his player first and foremost.
Speaking exclusively to gmfc.net, he said: “The boy is devastated and it’s really him we’re feeling for at this moment in time. From our point of view, it’s disappointing, but it’s much more about the impact on Conor personally.
“He’s worked so hard to get himself to this stage. Tuesday night was as good as he’s looked. He was really dynamic, looked fit and sharp, showed great desire to score his goal, was really enthusiastic and playing with a smile on his face.
“He looked as if he wasn’t far away, and for that to happen again was just absolutely demoralising for him. At this moment in time he’s in bits, which you can understand. He’s so frustrated and there’s a lot of anger there.
“All these emotions that are totally understandable if you’re a young player and you’ve been out for such a long time and you’re basically on the cusp of getting back to competing at first-team level then that happens again.”
The full extent of the problem is not yet known and the Ton boss says it might take a different approach to get to the bottom of the issue plaguing the 22-year-old.
Duffy added: “We just have to get to the root of the problem and that’s it. There’s obviously something not right in his knee and we have to try and find out what it is before we can revaluate it.
“There’s no indication of how serious it is at this moment in time, but it’s pretty much a reoccurrence of what’s happened before, and it’s happened probably about three or four times now.
“At this moment in time, we can’t put our finger on it. He’s had an operation, he’s had scans, he’s had injections, he’s had various people, consultants and doctors, looking at it …
“Obviously there’s something that has been missed and at this moment in time we don’t know what it is, so until we can find the actual root or cause of the breakdown we’re in the unknown a wee bit.
“We have to take a different approach and look at it slightly differently. We’ve went down a process that is normal practice at football clubs where you get it assessed by our own medical staff, move it forward to a consultant.
“They then make a judgement on the issue and treat them accordingly. That’s the same at every football club; it doesn’t matter if you’re at Morton or Manchester City.
“That’s the format, but it’s obviously not worked. So rather than second guess what it might be or chase around, we have to take our time a wee bit.
“So we’ll get the weekend out of the way, revaluate it and decide what’s the best direction to go in, and we can hopefully find out the solution.”
Main image: David Bell
Inset image: Jonathan Mitchell