Ryan Strachan was relieved to end months of injury frustration with a start in Cove Rangers’ 5-0 win over Huntly in the Highland League Cup.
The centre-back, who can also play in midfield, helped the Granite City team into the League Cup semi-finals in his first start since August.
Strachan has had ankle ligament and achilles tendon problems since the end of last season.
He said: “It’s always good to advance in cups because we want to win as many trophies as we can and this is one of the bigger ones.
“It’s good from a team point of view to progress and from my point of view to get on the park again.
“It’s been frustrating being out. I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
“But after a few injections and rehab I’m back ready to go. My ankle ligaments and my achilles tendon were causing the problems.
“It was quite a bad injury I had and I don’t think it would have repaired itself. It did need some help with injections.
“I’m just building fitness up and trying to get back in the team, you don’t expect to come straight back in when the boys have been doing well.
“I just need to get fit and sharp again to keep myself in that 11. I’m glad I got the chance to play 90 minutes on Saturday.”
Cove boss John Sheran was pleased to see Strachan return, but that was countered by losing defender Darryn Kelly in the second half with a suspected torn hamstring.
Sheran said: “It was good to get Ryan back on the field it’s been a number of weeks since he played.
“I think he’s a top player and he gives us a bit of composure.
“It’s not just about him – there are lots of good players around him – but he certainly adds to the mix, there’s no question about that.
“Injuries happen when you’ve got lots of games to play, but we have got a squad to deal with that.
“On Saturday all over the park I thought it was a really good team performance.”
Early on Blair Yule was repelled by keeper John Farquhar and at the other end ex-Cove man Nick Gray dragged an effort wide from 15 yards.
On 18 minutes Cove took the lead when Jamie MASSON’S free-kick from 25 yards deflected off Cammy Booth in the wall and wrong-footed Farquhar. Soon after Daniel Park fired wide after a slip from Huntly skipper Michael Clark.
Five minutes from the break it was 2-0 when Jordon BROWN headed in Park’s cross from the right from point-blank range.
Huntly threatened sporadically on the counter-attack but Cove always looked capable of increasing their lead.
With 11 minutes to play PARK’S 25-yard free-kick swerved past Farquhar and into the net to make it three.
On 83 minutes sub Hamish MacLEOD finished from the right side of the box after fellow sub Ryan Ferguson released him with a pass.
In the 90th minute FERGUSON tapped home from close range after a mix-up in Huntly defence.
Blacks and Golds manager Martin Skinner said: “I thought they were by far the better team, they created far more chances and we showed them too much respect, we wanted to have a proper go and we simply didn’t.”