Joel Ekstrand revealed he was nervous in the build up to his comeback game today and was relieved to get through it unscathed.
Ekstrand played in a competitive match this afternoon for the first time since renowned specialist Ramon Cugat repaired the mess Ekstrand made of his left knee following an innocuous challenge in the game against Ipswich Town at Vicarage Road in March. He played 45 minutes of the Professional Development League game against Brentford at Clarence Park, departing the field at half-time with the score at 1-1.
The Sweden international didn’t appear for the second half and there was some concern when Troy Deeney and Almen Abdi went into the changing room at the break, but they were just checking on the welfare of their teammate and friend and to congratulate him on his return.
“To play 45 minutes was always the plan,” Ekstrand told us. “With more games coming up now I can get 60 or 70 minutes and then, eventually 90. We are on schedule and I feel really good. This was the first step and it was always going to be 45, even though I could have gone on longer.”
Ekstrand did not receive the ultimate test of his knee by being on the receiving end of any meaty challenges but he was neat and tidy in possession, won his fair share of headers and, crucially, landed ok after often rising highest. He almost made the dream comeback with a goal but his header from a George Byers corner went just wide.
“I’m happy to be back in the game,” he said. “I feel good and I’m mostly happy that it [the knee] didn’t break again. Before the game I was nervous, excited as well but mainly nervous, but after five to ten minutes I felt good.”
The game ended 3-3, with Alex Jakubiak scoring a hat-trick as Harry Kewell’s side came from 3-1 down to draw with the last kick of the game.