Stags star Byrom surprised by FA Cup selection

Mansfield Town v Cardiff FA Cup 3rd round replay'Joel Byrom has a pop at goal in the first half.
Mansfield Town v Cardiff FA Cup 3rd round replay'Joel Byrom has a pop at goal in the first half.

Midfield star Joel Byrom admitted he was surprised to be thrown straight back into a successful side in midweek.

Byrom returned from injury to play for 74 minutes of the FA Cup replay with Cardiff City, pitched into a side that had only lost once in 20 games before kick-off.

Boss Steve Evans had said having a side without Byrom in it had been like going to bed without a pillow and also described his return as “like having a new girlfriend!”

Nevertheless, Byrom was still shocked to be on the team sheet on Tuesday.

“I thought the lads were doing brilliantly, especially going down to Cambridge and getting a result down there,” he said.

“So I was pleased to get back in there, it wasn’t really expected. The gaffer threw me back in and I thought I gave a good account of myself.”

Byrom knows a starting place is never guaranteed. He said: “It’s been a fight in there all season.

“The likes of Alex MacDonald have come into a central midfield role and he’s been fantastic and probably looks even more comfortable there than he does out wide.”

Byrom is now hoping his stop-start season can end smoothly.

“It’s never nice being out the side,” he said. “It’s been a frustrating time because the two injuries I’ve had have not been big injuries, but they’ve been injuries that have kept me out for quite a bit of time.

“Hopefully it’s all behind me now and I can stay fit for the rest of the season.

“It was good to get back on the pitch on Tuesday and get some minutes under my belt.

“I felt good and felt like I could have carried on. They probably didn’t want to rush me straight back into 90 minutes with a lot of games coming up.”

He added: “When you’re not out on the pitch with the lads, you feel like you’re missing out. You’re always over at the gym when they go into training.

“Then you come back and stay in the afternoon when everyone is going home.

“It’s a frustrating time – especially on matchdays when you’re sat in the stand watching and you want to be out there.”

On the defeat by Cardiff, he said: “We can take a lot of positives from it. We more than matched them in the first half and we gave them a run for their money.”

Byrom is now hoping to keep his place for Saturday’s visit of Cheltenham Town, saying: “It’s a massive game for us. “We need to start cementing out place in the league and pushing forwards. It’s crazy up there at the minute and everyone can beat everyone else.

“I wasn’t at the away game, but under Gary Johnson, Cheltenham are usually hard-working teams who are quite physical and direct.

“We have to match that and then on top of that we have to play the football we know we are capable of with the players we’ve got.”