We caught up with midfielder Jason Kennedy following his long-awaited return to first team action after a 14-month injury lay-off.
“The reception [from the fans] when I came on was just what I needed, to be honest,” he admitted. “After the year I’ve had, to come on to that reception from all of the fans who travelled down was amazing.
"It was up there with the best two minutes of my career so far, I think. To get out there again after what I’ve been through was amazing."
“If I could have picked an away ground to come back at, it would have been here, because of the following we always bring," he added. "I’ve had good games here in the last few years with goals and things like that, so to come back in front of a following like that was just amazing.
“On social media the fans have been giving me loads of messages of encouragement, saying they want me back involved and on the pitch. To eventually reach the stage where I’m ready and I can kick on, it's just great."
On the support he's had behind the scenes, he told us: “Dolly especially, and Paddy and the rest of the coaching staff, have all been brilliant with me.
"They’ve looked after me when I’ve needed my rest, they’ve let me understand my own body and it’s all come good for me in the end.
“The gaffer pulled me towards the end of the game [on Tuesday] and asked if I wanted to go on. I obviously said yes, because I was ready and I’ve been waiting for that moment for a long time. I can’t describe how much it meant to get back out there. I just can't find the words."
Looking back at what has been a tough period in his life, he commented: “At one stage, when the injury happened, I thought I’d never pull on a shirt again.
"That was hard to take, and when I went to see the specialist to get the all-clear it was almost like he didn’t believe me when I was telling him everything felt fine.
"I’ve worked hard, the lads and everyone have stuck by me, and it was brilliant to get the opportunity to get on the pitch again, even if it was only two minutes.
“When I first had conversations with the specialist I was told there was a 50-50 chance I would play again. When I saw the specialist in December he was really happy with how things had gone, and that’s down to the work I’ve done with Dolly and Paddy.
"The one-on-one work Paddy has done with me has been great, and I’ve completed every single rehab thing you can possibly think of, so it’s stood me in good stead."
“It’s a perfect start to the new year, even just to get two minutes," he admitted. "It was amazing to be back out there and to kick off 2019 on a really positive note.
"I think people will have noticed, when I passed the ball to Hallam [Hope] on the left I did consider bombing on and getting into the box, but with us being 2-0 up and closing the game out I just sat back.
"I’m obviously desperate to get back amongst the goals, but there’s plenty of time for that!"
“The lads have won five on the bounce so I don’t think I’ll be anywhere near the starting line-up for a very long time if they carry on," he joked. "The lads have been brilliant over the festive period, everyone is itching to play and we’ve got a good, competitive squad.
“The gaffer spoke to me before the Christmas period and he told me I need to have an 11-a-side game, on a full-sized pitch, to get some match fitness into me. With the time of year and the amount of games we’ve had that's been quite difficult, but hopefully it won’t be long until we can organise something.
“It’s about building my match fitness back up now. Going from training to being involved in games, there’s no way it’s possible to go out and play 90 minutes. If I can pick up minutes here and there then in the background and get a friendly game, or something like that, I think that’s the aim."
And on the current form, he said: “The form we’re on is brilliant and confidence is high. The competition is there, everyone is chomping at the bit to be out there playing because they all want to continue the winning run we’re on at the moment.
“We’re in a good position but the gaffer keeps saying that we’ve got to take things a game at a time and make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves. It’s a competitive league and anyone can beat anyone, so we’ve just got to keep our focus on the next game and make sure we're doing well in that one."
“I’m available for selection now so hopefully I’ll get more time on the pitch as the weeks go by," he concluded. "I’m not rushing myself, I know I need a proper game on a full-sized pitch.
"Running out there today felt a bit strange and surreal. It's just great being back on a full-sized pitch during a game, so I’m not rushing it.
"I know if the opportunity comes along where the gaffer wants me to come on, then I’ll be ready."
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