Peterhead veteran Gary MacKenzie is delighted to be back fit after a turbulent start to his Blue Toon career.
MacKenzie, 35, who counts Rangers, Dundee, Blackpool and St Mirren among his former clubs, made his return in the second half of Saturday’s 1-0 League One loss to Forfar at Balmoor.
The imposing defender’s communication and reading of the game allowed Peterhead to pin back the visitors, although they couldn’t convert any of the chances they created.
MacKenzie was forced off with concussion as Peterhead lost their league opener at Airdrie in October. The road back grew longer when MacKenzie then rolled his ankle in training.
He said: “It’s good to be back playing. It was a bit unfortunate the way it started, with the concussion, then I rolled my ankle coming back.
“It’s been a bit frustrating, but it’s good to be back – although I’m obviously pretty disappointed with the result.”
MacKenzie’s absence has coincided with injuries to both hamstrings suffered by midfielder Simon Ferry, which have also restricted the 32-year-old to just two League One appearances.
With two of his most experienced players out, Peterhead boss Jim McInally has had to rely on a relatively young crop so far this term, with mixed results, the Blue Toon managing two wins from their opening six games.
In the aftermath of the painful loss to struggling Forfar, which followed a 1-0 home win over Dumbarton, McInally bemoaned the lack of intensity shown by his players in the first half, which allowed the Loons to take a sucker-punch lead.
MacKenzie, who thinks the younger players in the Peterhead squad can’t rely on the likes of Ferry and himself to guide them through matches, said: “That’s what the gaffer’s got us for – experience – and it’s just disappointing we’ve been out at the same time.
“We’re probably the two most experienced players.
“If me or Simon can’t play on Saturday against Falkirk, people need to step up and take responsibility.
“They’re not going to have somebody holding their hand through their career.
“That’s football – if they want to progress and have a career.”
He added: “The boys have done well, but I’m one – and Simon’s the same – for urging the younger players to take responsibility.
“You don’t need to be 30-odd and played hundreds of games to be able to demand the ball or something off somebody else.
“It’s something that’s hard to teach someone and you almost learn it, but sometimes, if you take experienced people out who do it naturally, then they’ve no choice but to step up.
“There wasn’t enough of that in the first half, there wasn’t anybody prepared to grab the game and dictate it.
“It was a bit tit for tat, then they’ve managed to get a goal and we’re chasing our tails a bit in the second half.
“On another day you get a break of the ball, something goes in and you get a draw or go on to win the game.”
MacKenzie was happy to see a reaction from his team-mates in the second period.
He said: “There was a reaction needed in the second half and I think we got it, but, like I say, the result wasn’t there, but it wasn’t for the lack of effort.