East Stirlingshire defender Nathan Shepherd could be about to put two years of injury setbacks behind him and help the club’s strong finish to the season.
The attack-minded full-back has barely played 20 games in the past two seasons because of a succession of knee problems, but his latest comeback from injury this week might be the most long-lasting yet.
Shepherd’s appearance in Shire’s Development League game at Forfar on Tuesday was his first since November when a planned comeback lasted just 12 minutes as a substitute.
Prior to that it was September when he last pulled on a Shire jersey but then started to develop discomfort in his knee that brought about an abrupt end to his return following ACL surgery the previous year.
Now further surgery last month seems to have brought his latest problems to a conclusion and the player’s rehab is slowly coming to a conclusion.
“He had further surgery at the end of February and we have given him a few weeks to see if there was any reaction,” said Shire coach Craig Tully. “Last week he was given the green light by the physio to start playing and he jumped at the chance to go to Forfar and play with the under-20 team.
“It’s a shame he has suffered so much with injuries because Nathan was shaping up to be a key player for us in the early part of the season.”
In many ways Shepherd’s absence tells the story of Shire’s season with important players missing large chunks of the campaign and that having a negative impact on their overall showing this season.
“When we were sitting at the bottom of the league earlier in the season many people wrote us off,” said Tully.
“We knew to some on the outside it might have looked like a hopeless position but we always knew we had some of our more influential players to come back and when they did we were confident results would improve, and that’s what has happened.”
Adding Shepherd to the mix for the last few matches of the season will only make Shire’s fight to stay as high as possible in the league table easier to achieve.
Last weekend’s defeat at the hands of Annan Athletic was a setback for Shire but Tully wants his players to knuckle down and respond positively when Arbroath are the visitors to Ochilview on Saturday.
“We had come off a long midweek trip to Elgin and although we matched Annan all the way they brought some pace on at the end and maybe our tiredness showed a bit.”