As he crumpled to the Pittodrie pitch in agony, Tommie Hoban knew immediately he had suffered another serious knee injury.
After his second bout of cruciate ligament damage in under two years, Hoban remains determined his injury hell will not define his career.
Having had his season and loan spell at Aberdeen ended by the injury sustained against St Mirren on February 16, the former Republic of Ireland under-21 cap underwent surgery.
It was his second major knee operation having ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in 2017, while training with Watford, which wiped out last season.
Thankfully the damage done at Pittodrie was to a different knee.
Now recuperating, Hoban is confident he will not only return to full fitness but will be back better than ever.
A return to action in the colours of Aberdeen could yet happen as he is out of contract at Watford at the end of the season. Dons boss Derek McInnes has admitted he would be keen to sign Hoban when fit if he is a free agent.
It is a reunion Hoban is also keen on. First he must make the long journey back to fitness, but he has already negotiated the toughest part post-surgery.
He said: “As soon as I did it I knew as it was a lot more painful than the last time on the other leg. It felt like I had broken my leg at the time and it was really, really painful.
“I knew it was something serious and it was. But thankfully it was nothing that isn’t fixable.
“I’m lucky to be a player at this time because, with the amount of injuries I’ve had, if I was playing 30 years ago I would probably have had to retire by now.
“The medical care then wasn’t what it is now.
“I am lucky enough to have seen some of the best surgeons in the world and the stuff they can do now can get you back playing at the top level.
“After this one the surgeon said he was confident that the knee would be good.
“Even though there was a lot of damage there it was nothing that he wasn’t able to repair, so hopefully in six months time I will be feeling as good as new.
“And hopefully better than I was after the last one.”
Hoban was only six games into his comeback from surgery on a shoulder injury sustained playing for the Dons against Hibs that ruled him out for five months when he was hit with the fresh knee injury blow in February.
He has been through lengthy rehab before and understands the power of positive thinking.
Silver linings can be found in the darkest of places and the knee injury has allowed Hoban to spend more time with infant son Finley. He delayed his shoulder surgery in August by a week until Finley was born.
He said: “Comparing the knee to the other one I did last time, it probably feels a little bit better than at this stage last time.
“I’m feeling positive with it and the last few weeks I have made quite big improvements.
“I am walking fine now and starting the long, boring part of the rehab but also the important part, which is the strength phase.
“That is helping the leg feel much better day to day.
“This time it was the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) that was the main injury as I tore the main ligament. There was a bit of cartilage damage as well.
“I was lucky that the part of the cartilage damaged was a part that you don’t actually need too much.
“So my surgeon doesn’t think that will cause me any problems.
“He also tidied up the rest of the knee because when you have a big injury like that there are little bits and bobs as everything is clattered together.
“He fixed the ACL and I am on the road to recovery. The earliest stage is always the toughest as you are in a lot of pain, can’t move the knee well and there is still so long to go.
“But the stage I am at now I am starting to do a lot more in the gym so I can feel the improvement through the hard work.
“I am definitely over the worst part of it and I am confident I will be able to make a full recovery.
“Hopefully this time I will be in a better place physically than I was after the last one. Hopefully this will be the last injury and I can really get going again.”
Hoban is determined to emerge from this fresh injury nightmare stronger than ever. Valuable lessons were learned from his last knee injury and he will not rush his rehabilitation or comeback.
He said: “My other knee had never fully healed probably from mistakes I made in rehab from pushing a bit too much at times.
“Even though I was fit and still playing up at Aberdeen, I was in a lot of pain and had to take a lot of tablets before games.
“The first time you do it you just want to get back as fast as you can and you really push it.
“But sometimes the body just needs time to heal and I have learned that now.
“I have learned lessons and this time am not forcing anything.
“If it doesn’t feel right sometimes then it is best not to do that extra gym session.
“Sometimes with these injuries you just have to let the body take its time to heal.”
Hoban will be sidelined for up to another six months as he battles to return to action.
He said: “ I don’t want to put a definite on when because there is still a long way to go.
“Maybe October I would say is a realistic time
“The worst thing I could do is come back a month quicker and something happens again.
“If taking one extra month to come back gives me five extra years, I will definitely do that.
“With the amount of injuries I have had this does have to be the last one.
“I am well aware of that so I am not going to be cutting corners.”