Cobblers striker Alex Nicholls thanked the club’s fans for their support after he made his playing comeback following 21 months out of the game at Sileby Rangers on Saturday.
Nicholls scored a hat-trick in Town’s 9-0 pre-season friendly win at Fernie Fields, and was understandably delighted and relieved to be out on a football pitch again after being out injured for almost two years.
The 26-year-old suffered a broken leg while scoring a goal in the 2-0 win over Port Vale at Sixfields on October 27, 2012.
It has been a long road back for the former Walsall man, but he looked in great shape after coming on as a 52nd-minute substitute at Sileby.
His movement was first class, as was his finishing, and he didn’t flinch when it came to getting involved in physical contact.
It was all very encouraging, and although it was against very modest opposition, Nicholls looked the class act he was before his injury.
The player was given a fantastic reception by the healthy Cobblers following when he came on, and he went on to score three goals in the space of 11 minutes as he quickly found his feet.
“It was fantastic, and I couldn’t be any more pleased,” said Nicholls.
“It took me five or 10 minutes to get into the game, but once I got a few touches of the ball I felt quite good.
“Obviously the opposition will be better as we go on, but I am really pleased.”
Nicholls was touched by the reception he received from the supporters, and said: “Through the whole thing, the fans have been fantastic and I can’t thank them enough.
“The support I have had from the club as well has been second to none, and that has really helped over the long time I have been out.
“The reception I got was fantastic, and I’m just really pleased that I could do something to give them a bit of a cheer.”
Nicholls’ first and third goals were calm finishes after being sent through one-one-one, but the player admitted it was the second goal that pleased him the most.
It was only a tap in from a couple of yards, but the significance of the goal was that Nicholls had to slide in and challenge the Sileby goalkeeper and a defender to prod the ball home.
There was a real similarity to the incident that saw Vale’s John McCombe break Nicholls’ leg with a late tackle, and he said: “I was pleased with my second goal.
“It (the injury) didn’t come into my head to be honest. I wasn’t sure how I would react, and it is always in the back of your mind.
“But once I was out on the pitch I didn’t think about it at all, not one bit.”
Nicholls, who has yet to be offered a contract by the Cobblers as he proves his fitness, will now travel to Scotland for a training camp with the rest of the Town squad on Tuesday, and he is looking forward to getting sharper and sharper.
“The leg feels fine, and I am going to get better and fitter as the games go on,” said Nicholls.
“We have been in for a week and a half, and my fitness levels aren’t quite up to the same as the lads, but I don’t feel too far off.”
Full interview with Alex Nicholls will be in Thursday’s Chronicle & Echo