Striker Mark Cullen made his first start for the club since joining on-loan from Blackpool during the January transfer window, and made an immediate impact as he claimed an assist for Hallam Hope’s second half strike during the 1-1 away draw at Colchester.
We spoke to him about what it felt like to be back out there earlier this week.
“It was really good to get out there from the beginning, to be honest,” he said. “It’s been a good few months since I last started a match and I really enjoyed it.
“The manager had talked to me about getting through the reserve game at Oldham during last week and then we were going to see what happened at the weekend. That was all that was said, really, so I was over the moon when I got the nod.
“When you come into a new club you want to get going straight away, but I’ve had to be a bit patient, which is fair enough. Finally getting that start is great and hopefully between now and the end of the season I’ll be getting some more.”
With the manager having mentioned the focal point provided by the no-nonsense forward as something that’s been lacking from recent performances, he admitted that it was nice to have made an impact on the day, and to have also received praise from the fans.
“It’s nice to hear things like that,” he told us. “You want everyone to want you to play kind of thing. I think I did alright in the game and it’s a case of building on that from now.
“I think it’ll take me a couple more starts and a getting a few more minutes into the legs, but hopefully I’ll just keep getting better and better. When you play up top in that kind of formation you have to be bringing other people into play, and basically just making a nuisance of yourself.
“I can do that quite easily – I’m quite good at making a nuisance of myself.”
Having initially been pencilled in to play for an hour at Colchester, the manager revealed after that game that two conversations with the striker, five minutes apart, had extended his time on the pitch by 10 further minutes.
“I was just enjoying myself, you know what I mean?” he explained. “It was good and we were doing quite well in the game as a team at that time.
“We’d just scored the goal and I thought we could have pushed on to get another. I was desperate to get on the score sheet myself because that’s what my game is all about.
“I felt good but at around the 70-minute mark I came off and, to be fair, I’d probably ran my course by that time.
“It’s just massive for me to have got it under my belt. When you’re injured it’s terrible and it’s even harder when you come to a new place because you’re just chomping at the bit to get on with it.
“There haven’t been any issues with my rehab, or anything like that, that’s all been as smooth as it could be. I never had any doubt that it was going to be fine, or anything like that. Having said that it’s still nice to get out on the pitch in a competitive match.
“I’m feeling a bit stiff now but that’s the same even when I’ve been playing every week. I’m not feeling that clever right now but I’ll be back and firing again by Tuesday morning.”
But was he claiming the assist for the Hallam Hope goal, having made that all-important run at the near post?
“I just wanted it to go in,” he said. “At the time I wasn’t even sure if I’d touched it but I’d have claimed it anyway! I caused a bit of trouble by getting across the defender, but the keeper obviously got there and parried it.
“The good thing was that Hallam [Hope] was there to put it away. In all seriousness I’m not really bothered who scores. If it had managed to be me than it would have been great, but the big thing is that it’s a shame we couldn’t hold on for the three points.
“What I will say is that it 100% an assist. You can’t take that away from me now! It’s a good way to start and hopefully I’ll get a few more assists and some goals as well.”
On the overall team performance on Saturday, he commented: “We’d played well and it’s always devastating to concede at the end when that’s been the case.
“Colchester isn’t an easy place to go to so we have to take the positive from it with the fact we got a point. It’s now about moving on to next week and going again.
“We want to be winning games because we want to try to get promoted. You need to be picking up points to do that. That’s why we’ll train this week as normal and we’ll go down to Newport looking to win.”
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