Matty Blair admitted he felt highly emotional as he ran onto the One Call Stadium pitch as a late substitute in yesterday’s 0-0 home draw with Plymouth Argyle after eight months sidelined with a serious knee injury.
Stags fans gave Blair a warm welcome as he replaced Nathan Thomas for his first proper action since his cruciate knee ligament injury at Carlisle at the end of January.
“It felt very emotional just coming back on,” he said. “Obviously I got a good reception from the fans which I appreciated dearly.
“It’s been seven months’ hard work, more mental than physical, and I’ve got to thank everybody on my half of the family, my girlfriend, my friends, everybody – they’ve been a big help for me.
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“As the game went on I thought I don’t know if I’m going to get my chance as the game was so balanced. But the gaffer showed good faith in me.
“It felt really good. It’s been a long, hard seven months so it was great to get my first 10 minutes under my belt and I am now looking forward to Tuesday.
“I am nowhere near fully fit. Match-time, obviously that will come. I’ve had 10 minutes today and 45 minutes during the week. But I am still three or four games away yet from being fully match fit, though training-wise I feel fit and strong.”
Blair almost carved out a winning goal for Adi Yussuf with his first cross, the finish going wide.
“It would have been a great start to come back to,” he smiled. “I was told to just get down the outside and get as many crosses in as I could.
“The opportunity was there for me to do it. I smashed it across.
“Adi’s made a great run to the front post but just put it the wrong side. If it had gone in then it would have been happy days, but we go again Tuesday.
“My target now is to break back into the first team starting, though that won’t happen any time soon. Then I want to be a big part of this team.”
Blair feels the gym work he has had to do will see him come back bigger and stronger.
“The gaffer says I have got big sparrow legs,” said Blair. “I have actually got a bit of muscle on them now. I feel strong now. I am getting better and hopefully I have still got my pace.
“I didn’t do any sort of gym work before the injury. But the medical team as well as the consultant couldn’t stress enough how important it is.”
Boss Adam Murray said: “He has worked hard to get himself where he is.
“He is still a few weeks away from being fit enough to play large parts of a game.
“We are still building Matty’s fitness up, but he showed today, he’s had one opportunity to put the ball in there and we nearly scored.”