Sheffield Wednesday defender Joe Mattock had the perfect early Christmas present when he made his comeback from injury ahead of schedule.
The Owls left-back injured his ankle in the 1-1 draw at Charlton on November 1 and was originally ruled out for six to eight weeks.
But he was on the bench for last weekend’s 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers, and had to make a first-half appearance after an early injury to Lewis McGugan.
His 60-minute run-out was a welcome return for the former Leicester City defender, who is likely to stay on the bench today when Wolverhampton Wanderers visit Hillsborough in the Championship.
Frenchman Jeremy Helan has been impressing at left-back, and after back-to-back wins, Owls head coach Stuart Gray is likely to stick with a settled defence.
On his injury Mattock said: “It’s coming along good. I’m back into training now. I played 60 minutes last week. It was a little bit unexpected.
“Lewis went down with the injury and I wasn’t expecting to be the one to come on. I felt I did ok and I’m just working my way back now. There was a little bit of rustiness. The ankle felt ok, it feels strong actually so I can look forward to working hard in training and forcing my way back into the side.
“It’s difficult because you don’t want to be sat watching the games. You have to work hard. I’ve ended up coming back from the injury quicker than I thought.
“I had a couple of sugar injections in my ankle which have turned out to be really helpful. I’m pleased to be back earlier than I thought. I’m not too sure myself what the sugar injections are but I do know they have strengthened up my ligaments and sped up the process. They said it’d be six to eight weeks but I’m back in five.
“You just have to keep your head down. I was in the boot for three weeks and you can’t do anything other than upper body and weights. As soon as the boot came off I was working hard, running as soon as I could and now I’m back in training and hopefully I’ll just work my way back in. Don’t overdo it but work hard.
“Your mind is always on it, especially the first couple of weeks and the first couple of days training. I had a couple of twists and turns which are going to be painful. The ligament has shrunk so it’s just little niggles. You can’t worry about it and just have to get on with it.”
Mattock faces a battle to oust Helan from the left-back spot, but relishes the competition for places.
“I’m happy to be in a bit of competition,” he said. “It’s better for the team and everyone knows that. There’s no doubt I’ll be making it hard for the gaffer to make his mind up.
“Jeremy’s a good player. He’s quick and he’s great at one-v-one defending. It’s going to push me harder and hopefully I’ll get my place back.”
With games packed in over the festive period, Mattock believes the Owls can push for the play-offs - they currently sit four points off sixth spot.
“I think we’re looking good,” he said. “Everything is positive. I know people say we had a bad patch but I think there was one loss and more draws than anything.
“A lot of the draws were away games. You’ve got to take the positives out of that. We’ve had two wins on the bounce and there’s no reason why we can’t get a third against Wolves.
“We don’t want to be looking to stay in mid-table, we want to be pushing on. Everyone in the club knows that. They know we’re capable of that.
“There’s no reason why we can’t push for the play-offs. We’ve got good players and we’ve stayed positive throughout this whole time. As long as we keep our heads down and get a few more goals, we’ll get there.
“You just have to stay positive. There’s a lot of negativity thrown at you. We’ve got a good bunch of lads. The gaffer tells us to take the positives on board. We’ve dug deep and it’s paid off.
“It’s a difficult period around Christmas. Players have to make sacrifices. We’ve got a lot of games coming up and we’re looking to get as many points as we can.
“Hopefully if we come out the next four games with nine or 12 points, we can kick on from there.”