DEFENDER Darren Lough made his footballing comeback on Saturday when he played the last 20 minutes of Ashington’s STL Northern League win over Stokesley at Woodhorn Lane.
The 22-year-old received a standing ovation when he replaced Craig Scott before taking up his usual left back berth.
It was his first game since suffering a fractured skull five months ago following a collision in an FA Cup tie against Vauxhall Motors back in early October.
And Lough marked his return by contributing to the final goal scored by Andrew Johnson.
But the defender was just as pleased to see a return to winning ways.
“The most important thing was the team securing three points after two defeats,” he said.
“I had done a decent warm-up and felt ready to come on, but my aim was not thinking about having to head the ball but to focus on the game itself.
“I was not scared to head the ball and in fact I drew some confidence when I did head a throw-in.
“The 20 minutes just flew over as I just tried to get used to the surroundings of being on the pitch again and to concentrate.
“I enjoyed it and was grateful to the fans for giving me a standing ovation, and it is a massive step for me.”
With Ashington still having 15 league games remaining in their season, Lough is expecting the squad to push on, and he hopes his hard work will see him chosen on merit.
“I’ve got to put performances in at training to be considered for selection, but even if I do that, then I want to be picked on merit,” he said.
“If I’m not in the starting 11 I will be disappointed, but I also understand the situation because I haven’t played for so long.
“I’m not expecting to walk back into the side, but it would be nice to get more time on the pitch.
“The squad and the management team work together; there is a great bunch of players and similarly a great coaching staff.”
And Lough, who believes he is 80 per cent fit with only match fitness to come in time, is expecting Ashington to build towards a crescendo for the end of the campaign.
“We have quite a few games to get through and we will be looking to secure as many wins as possible in order to finish high up the league table,” he said.
Boss Gary Middleton said: “It’s great that Darren is back amongst the playing squad after there were doubts at the time of his injury whether he would ever play football again.
“He’s been training with us since Christmas, so to get him on the pitch was a massive boost – it was pleasing to have him playing again.”