Completing his first 90 minutes in a Luton shirt since early September at the weekend came as a huge relief for midfielder Alan McCormack.
After an impressive start to the campaign, the 34-year-old has endured a thoroughly frustrating time of it since injuring his groin in the 2-1 win at Wycombe back on September 16.
I just want to play every minute I can and achieve that ultimate goal of what we set out at the start of the year.Alan McCormack
A calf problem delayed his comeback, meaning that it was just over six months before he was named in the starting 11 once again for Town’s home game against Barnet.
McCormack said: “When it’s a win, it’s the greatest relief and the way the last five games have been going, we needed that very, very badly.
“So to be out there, to be helping, that makes all the little downs that I’ve had over the last few months worthwhile.
“The hard work you put in on the training pitch and the patience and disappointment and anger of not getting into the squads, it all makes it worthwhile to be able to put in a performance and 90 minutes as well, so I’m delighted.”
The former Brentford and Swindon player revealed that some of the toughest times he experienced came when he was still not picked despite being available for selection.
That all changed when he was named in the squad for the trip to Newport last week, and was then back from the start on Saturday.
McCormack continued: “It’s been tough mentally more than anything. The gaffer was adamant, ‘not until you’re ready, not until you’re ready,’ and I’ve been flying in training for a good six, seven weeks and itching to play.
“He’s had to pull the reins back on me and I think if I had of come in a little bit earlier, I might have not got 90 minutes like I did.
“The last few games before that I’d been in the squad and travelled to Cambridge and been to games at home.
“You get yourself ready to be involved, you know you’re probably not starting when you turn up to the dressing room, you get yourself ready to be on the bench.
“You go through everything in your head, the prep work, you watch the clips that get sent to you and the names come up and you’re not on it, it’s a big disappointment I tell you that.
“It’s the hardest place to be. You feel very alone and sometimes take yourself out of the dressing room and have five, 10 minutes on your own to calm down or get your mind back in.
“It’s been a tough place, so Saturday when I went up and was on it (teamsheet), it was good excitement and then I got a few minutes, everything seemed rosy.
“The game on Tuesday (against Giillingham) did me the world of good too.
“I’m hoping to see the back of it now and seven games to go, I just want to play every minute I can and achieve that ultimate goal of what we set out at the start of the year.”
On his own display, which saw McCormack named man of the match, he knew it was important to manage himself at times. He said: “I’ve played enough games now to know you can’t go steaming about the pitch for 90 minutes, it’s impossible.
“The first 15 minutes with me is get your first pass in, get your first tackle in, win your first battle and do whatever you need to do, but get yourself in.
“I was a little bit leggy towards the end, but very happy with how I felt, mentally I was still switched on, I felt fine, so overall I’m very happy with the performance from the team too.”
When asked about having a player of McCormack’s calibre back again, striker Danny Hylton added: “He’s been a big miss. He’s had a few injuries, but he’s back and you can see how important he was.
“This time of the season especially, you need that experience, level head and I thought he did that.
“He was great, he knows what to do and when to do it in the games, it was brilliant.
“I’m really chuffed for him to come through 90 minutes and pick up man of the match and rightly so as he was terrific.”
Keeper James Shea always expected to see his team-mate have such an impact too, as he said: “It doesn’t surprise me one little bit.
“We both played in the game on Tuesday against Gillingham and he was magnificent on that day as well.
“Every game he plays, it’s like it’s a cup final.”
Meanwhile, forward James Collins added: “I think Macca showed his quality and experience on Saturday night, because you need people like Macca in your side.
“You can’t buy experience and he’s got that in abundance.”