NATHAN Stanton has expressed his delight at returning to action for Burton Albion after admitting to feeling downhearted during his spell amongst the substitutes.
The central defender was restored to the line-up as the Brewers beat Bradford City 1-0 at the Pirelli Stadium on Saturday after being the victim of circumstances and finding himself confined to the bench for six games.
Stanton picked up an Achilles injury, ironically, during the first half of Albion’s Capital One Cup third round defeat at Bradford City’s Coral Windows Stadium.
It was initially thought the 31-year-old would be out for two or three weeks and with fellow centre-back Marcus Holness already on the sidelines because of a hamstring injury, boss Gary Rowett moved to bring in Robbie Kiernan on a month’s loan from Wigan Athletic.
As it turned out, Stanton’s injury was not as bad as first feared and he returned four days later, but had to settle for a place on the bench as Rowett made the most of Kiernan’s arrival.
With Kiernan returning to the DW Stadium after Saturday’s game, Rowett threw Stanton back into the fold.
Stanton said he had no problem with his manager’s decision to play Kiernan, but admitted he found it tough sitting on the bench as the Brewers lost just one of the six games he missed.
He said of his injury and subsequent spell out of the starting line-up: “It was just a sore Achilles and the diagnosis was two to three weeks, but after one or two days it settled right down.
“I ended up training but by that time they had brought Robbie in on loan, who did very well, so there was no problem at all.
“I obviously had to wait for my chance and here it is — and hopefully I’ve taken that.
“You can never argue with that if players are doing well and the team is doing well, you can never argue with that.
“I’ve always said I’ll never question the manager’s team selection.
“Obviously, I was a bit disappointed I weren’t playing, and so would a lot of the other players, but that’s the way it goes and if you want to be successful you’ve got to fit into the regimes.
“I said to myself when you’re not in the team you’ve got to be ready for your chance, and you’ve got to take your chance when it comes because there’s competition for places and it’s not good being sat on the bench for five or six weeks.
“You start getting downhearted seeing the team do well, so I was more than ready for the game.
“It was ironic that I made my comeback against the team I got injured against — I was thinking that in the morning.
“I got injured at half-time (at Bradford) and I was really disappointed because I’d stayed clear of injury this season, which has been a big plus.
“I feel at my fittest. We’ve got some good staff doing extra work after training, so everything is coming into place.”
Stanton impressed on his return, helping the Brewers keep a clean sheet and get back to winning ways following a 4-1 defeat at League Two leaders Gillingham and a 1-1 home draw with second-placed Port Vale.
However, Albion had to wait until the 81st minute for the winner against a Bradford side who had been reduced to 10 men following the sending off of skipper Ricky Ravenhill just after the half-hour mark — with Stanton helping set up striker Calvin Zola’s winner.
“For some reason it always seems to get harder against 10 men, any team will tell you that, because they basically just try and shut up shop, keep one up front and he keeps on working,” said the central defender.
“To be fair to their big man, he kept on working hard and never gave us a moment’s peace.
“We said at half-time that we’d have to be patient — it might come in the 80th, 90th minute — and it did.
“We said ‘don’t change the way we are playing, stay patient’. As I said, it might come last 10 minutes, the goal.
“We had a lot of chances towards the end — they started getting tired and we pushed them right back.
“You always see that when your opponents go down to 10 men, teams panic a bit, try and get it forward as early as possible, but I thought we mixed it up a little bit — we got it forward when we could and we played when we had to.
“It was important we got back to winning ways, especially at home.
“I think this has been the biggest test in our season, these three games, and we’ve come out of it with flying colours.”
Speaking about the goal, Stanton said: “We wanted to get our players up the pitch more so the defenders could come out with the ball, and it worked perfectly.
“Damo (left-back Damien McCrory) got in behind, crossed the ball and got an assist for Calvin — it was a simple goal in the end but we’re an attacking team and we don’t rest on our laurels.”
Stanton hopes to have done enough to retain his place in the starting line-up as he looks to continue a personal love affair with the FA Cup.
The Brewers host Blue Square Bet North side Altrincham on Sunday in the first round and Stanton said: “Yeah, I’m looking forward to the cup, the FA Cup is brilliant to play in.
“Even when I was small I used to watch the FA Cup — I’ve been to about three finals with Liverpool.
“So, yeah, I love the FA Cup and the drama that goes with it.”