Aaron O’Connor believes it could take up to a month for him to get back to full speed as he continues his comeback from injury.
The striker, who hit 40 goals in all competitions for Kettering Town last season, missed the first three months of this campaign after suffering a broken knee and ligament damage in the Poppies’ final pre-season friendly of the summer.
However, the experienced frontman was named on the bench for last weekend’s Emirates FA Cup fourth qualifying round clash at Aldershot Town and featured for the final 25 minutes as Marcus Law’s team were beaten 2-0 by the Vanarama National League side.
O’Connor looks set for more minutes on the pitch when Kettering take on Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central rivals Stourbridge in the first qualifying round of the Buildbase FA Trophy at Latimer Park on Saturday.
And he has been lifting the lid on a tough three months of rehabilitation following his untimely injury.
“I had a little setback after I had done some jogging around the pitch at one of the home games,” the 35-year-old said.
“I was only doing it for five minutes or so and I had a bit of pain after that so it was clear I wasn’t ready at that stage.
“I had been taking a bit of advice from an old physio of mine and doing the work myself but Lavs (assistant-manager Richard Lavery) knows a knee specialist in Leicester and I got in touch with him.
“That reaction from the jogging probably set me back by a week but since I have been speaking and meeting with this specialist, things have been a lot better and it has helped me and the club make the right decisions.
“I hadn’t trained fully before last weekend but I had been doing my own bits and I knew everything had fully healed.
“I think everyone knows their own body and the one thing I don’t have at the moment is that sharpness that goes when you are out for a while.
“That’s something that will have to be built up over the next three weeks or even a month.
“But the manager asked me if I could do 25 minutes last weekend and I was happy to do that. And I felt surprisingly well after it on Sunday as well!
“Now it will just be a case of trying to build it up over the next few weeks so that I am back to that full sharpness but it’s just great to be back in the mix.”
The Poppies fans were understandably concerned about where the goals would come from after O’Connor suffered his injury.
Rhys Hoenes was tasked with filling the void and he’s done an impressive job with nine goals in all competitions while penalty king Brett Solkhon has also scored 10 himself.
And O’Connor has been impressed with the impact Hoenes has had in an out-and-out striker’s role in his absence.
“I have been talking to Rhys and just been doing my best to encourage him,” O’Connor added.
“I know as well as anyone that playing up front can be frustrating at times.
“But it’s the position where if you really work hard, then the rewards will usually come.
“You could be out of things for most of the game but then the chance arrives and you have the opportunity to be the hero.
“And Rhys has got all the tools for it. When you have someone like him with his pace and work-rate and then the quality of players behind him who will provide the service, then it will only benefit the whole team.
“He’s done a great job for the team and he will carry on doing that for sure."