MICHAEL Duberry was thrilled to get a first taste of match action in seven months yesterday, but insisted his recovery would only be completed by a return to Oxford United’s first-team.
The club arranged a special 60-minute practice match on Oxford City’s 3G pitch so the defender could gain valuable playing time.
It was the final test to overcome for the 37-year-old, who has not played a minute since the end of last season due to a serious neck injury.
Duberry joked he had awarded himself the man-of-the-match award as United took on the youth team.
The centre back is pleased with the way he has recovered from surgery in August and is now focused on getting back into Chris Wilder’s side.
He said: “It was good to play some competitive football, even if it was against the kids in an in-house game.
“But there was stuff I needed in terms of having instinctively to head a ball, getting a whack, sprinting, turning and it’s good for fitness.
“When you look back and see how far I’ve come I’m proud, but for me the achievement is to get back on the pitch, put on a yellow shirt, lace up some boots and kick on my season.
“I’ve missed it loads. I’m not one for watching games, you want to play every pass, head every ball and obviously with the results not going too well you feel helpless.
“You can talk, but you want to affect it on the pitch.”
Wilder has not ruled out including the veteran in the squad which travels north today ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Morecambe.
The U’s boss said: “We’ll talk to him and see how he feels – he’s old enough now to know his own body and make his own decisions.
“There’s no secret that I’d love him to be on the bus going up to Morecambe, but we have to consult with him.”
But Duberry’s initial reaction yesterday was more cautious, even though he is desperate to return.
He said: “Obviously it will be good for my morale to be around the lads, but I think I need another session to keep going with my personal programme.
“That will help me get on the bus for selection, rather than just going for morale.”