Although the result and performance on Tuesday night was one to be quickly forgotten about, for Ted Smith it was a really important night.
The 22-year-old goalkeeper made his long-awaited return from a shoulder injury in the Checkatrade Trophy defeat after 17 months out.
The Carabao Cup Round One game against Newport County on 8 August 2017 was Smith’s last appearance, and having gone through a tortuous time trying to firstly find out what the injury was, and then getting the right treatment for his shoulder, he was delighted to be back involved in competitive action.
“From a personal point of view it was nice to get back in the fold,” said Smith. “It’s been a long time; August 2017 is a long way back. It’s been tough, but it was nice to get minutes back at Roots Hall.
“The hard part at the start was not knowing what it was. In the end I had an operation that no-one really knew what was going to be the case. They worked out that my shoulder blade was in two pieces and it had to be screwed together, which the symptoms weren’t showing.
“Luckily I had the operation and touch wood it’s gone well and my shoulder feels stronger than it was before. But it’s been a tough time full of ups and downs and so many niggles and knocks, but finally there’s light at the end of the tunnel and I’m back out on the pitch.”
Smith made a comeback for the U23s a few months ago but then suffered a hamstring injury which set him back. He admitted there were moments before then that he wondered if he would make a full return.
“Of course you fear you might never get back out there. When you’re stuck in the treatment room so many things go through your head, but I’ve had great people around me in Ben the physio, who I can’t talk highly enough and tell you how much he’s done, Jamie Dye the assistant physio, Lee Harrison, the Gaffer, they’ve all been so good to me and helped me get back.
“Every day in the treatment room you look out and everyone’s training and working hard and playing football. When you’re a kid you grow up to become a footballer and that’s what you always wanted to do. To have that taken away from you for that long is really tough.
“Even matchday’s are so different to training. The buzz, even the smells in the changing room and it was nice to feel part of it again.
“For me now is more about minutes. Wherever they come, if that’s in the U23s, I just need as many minutes as I can to get back into that match frame because a match environment is so different.
“I’ve got my work cut out with Mark and Bish but at least I’m in a position now that I can give it a go challenging them, rather than just sitting there and hoping that I can get close to it. I’ll go out and train as hard as I can every day.”