Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton said he was forced to give new signing Harry Souttar a baptism of fire and revealed skipper Craig Morgan has been playing through the pain barrier for weeks.
Centre-half Souttar, 20, signed last Wednesday on loan from Stoke City and had trained for just one day with his new club before making his Football League debut in the 1-0 home win over Charlton Athletic.
Head coach Barton selected Souttar to partner Ash Eastham in the heart of defence after Morgan had needed painkilling injections to play in recent weeks.
The sale of Cian Bolger to Lincoln City and the injured Tommy Spurr’s return to Preston North End had left Town short of options in defence until Scot Souttar’s arrival.
Barton says the 1-0 defeat by Scunthorpe the previous weekend was “a game too far” for Morgan, 33, who has now been given time to rest and recover.
Ash Eastham moved over to the right, with Souttar starting on the left and Barton was pleased with the 6ft 6in youngster’s debut as Town kept a clean sheet.
He said: “It was kind of enforced. Morgs has been playing with injuries for the last few weeks.
“Sometimes people do not know that because when you cross the white line they expect you to be fully fit.
“For the last few weeks, if not the last month, big Morgs has been biting down on a gumshield and taking injections to get through because we have been light in that area.
“A real captain’s and leader’s role from him but Scunthorpe was just one game too far.
“He’d taken a couple of injections to get through it and put his body out there for the team, so to get someone in to give him a bit of rest was welcomed by all parties.
“Ash Eastham flips over to the right slot, where he is more comfortable. The big man has come in and been superb.
“We were a tad fortunate to get him because at one point he was not coming out. Luckily we know a couple of people at Stoke.
“The director of football (Mark Cartwright) helped us and they brought Danny Batth in (from Wolves), which freed up Harry to go.
“He’s an ambitious lad who wants to play football. I think he showed on Saturday just what a great player he is.
“He came in, dominated and looked like he had been playing in our team for a long period.
“For a 20-year-old making his debut, he did not miss a beat.
“Certainly when the pressure came from the long throws, he was there to win it and I think the whole team grew in confidence around that.”
Souttar had previously played top-flight league football in Scotland on loan with Ross County last season. His only senior appearances for Stoke were in two Carabao Cup ties, though he played three times for their Under-21 side in this season’s Checkatrade Trophy.