Striker Jai Quitongo today made his highly-anticipated return to action with a 25-minute appearance as a second-half substitute in a bounce game against Ayr United at Parklea.
The 19-year-old had been sidelined for seven months as the result of a knee injury suffered during a 2-1 loss to Dunfermline Athletic at East End Park back on 10 December last year.
However, he was given a run-out in this afternoon’s closed-doors match against the Honest Men, and gaffer Jim Duffy was thrilled to have the Scotland Under-21 international back on the pitch.
Speaking exclusively to gmfc.net immediately following the game, the Ton boss said: “It’s been a long time, and it’s always important to be cautious when someone’s had a long-term injury.
“Jai has obviously been champing at the bit to play – and that’s totally understandable; he’s been desparate to get back out on the pitch again.
“But I just had to make sure it was the right time. I felt it was important for him to do the pre-season, to get the strength and the power back in his legs, and then gradually get him involved.
“This was the first opportunity today, particularly in the latter stages of the game when the tempo had dropped a little bit.
“So we’ll take our time with him, but I was absolutely thrilled and delighted to see him back out on the pitch again.
“He’s worked really hard over the last seven months. He’s a terrific young talent and it’s always pleasing to get these players back out on the pitch.”
The teenager was far from tentatitive despite the considerable lay-off. He was full of energy and had no qualms about making his presence felt or running directly at defenders and riding challenges.
And Duffy added: “That’s Jai. As we know, he is a dynamic player. He’s full of dyanmism, energy and pace, and you can’t really calm him down in that situation.
“Also, in the first game back he was always going to be that way. I actually said to Craig [McPherson], ‘Let’s just let him run about for half an hour and let him get back involved.’
“[That was] as long as he didn’t go rushing into challenges. I mean, his leg is strong enough now and he is going to have to face challenges, but we want to get him up to game speed.
“He’s not suffered any after effects and seems fine. If anything, he wanted more time. We’re just really keeping the reins on him now. But we’ll have him involved at the weekend up in Turriff and then take it from there.”
Image: Jonathan Mitchell