MORTON gaffer Gus MacPherson has praised the character of full-back Lewis Strapp after he returned to the first-team playing out of position.

The academy graduate had been sidelined since last month's 2-0 defeat to Inverness Caley Thistle.

With Brian McLean ruled out of last Saturday's clash against Kilmarnock through injury, the 21-year-old solved a defensive headache by playing an unfamiliar centre-back role.

MacPherson praised Strapp's performance against a potent Killie strikeforce as his side get ready for another crucial encounter against Raith Rovers tomorrow.

He told the Tele: “The players have been great they’ve been really really good to work with.

“Even when they’ve been challenged and had hurdles thrown in their direction, they’ve stood up and been a credit to themselves.

“Strappy was excellent coming in at centre-half against Kilmarnock last week.

“He and Alan Lithgow defended really well against a potent front three and looked okay over the piece.

“It was a toss of the coin as to where we made the change in that respect but that wasn’t the issue last weekend.

“He defended really well, and he did his job which is the most important thing.

“We’ve played him on the left-hand side of a back three usually, but we always play a back four against Kilmarnock.

“We had to do that in order to carry out our game plan against them.

“When you’re missing two centre backs from your normal team selection then it’s always going to raise a few eyebrows when it came to the selection."

The Ton boss is pleased to welcome back both Jaakko Oksanen and Oisin McEntee for the trip to Fife from international duty with the Republic of Ireland and Finland.

MacPherson is delighted his loan stars are receiving international recognition as it boosts the profile of the club.

He said: “They’re both good players in their own right.

“They’re young, they’re development players - as are both Jimmy Knowles and Tom Allan - and it’s part of their development that they come and experience real football.

“Jaakko and Tom have had it before, this is Oisin’s first loan and he’s acquitted himself very well in his time up here.

“It can only mean good things for the profile of the club that they’re getting international recognition during their time here and that we’ve been trusted with their development.”

MacPherson says his players must relish tomorrow's Stark's Park encounter as they aim to move away from the relegation zone.

He said: “We can only look after ourselves and prepare properly and we make sure that the players know what’s expected of them.

“Every game is a big game, whether that be in the league, the Challenge Cup or the Scottish Cup or, they’re all big games but when you’re a player these are the games you want to be involved in.

“You want to be involved in these kind of games against sides like Raith Rovers. They’re big challenges to look forward to and we just need to ensure we do what we can to be competitive in these games."