Midfield maestro James Hardy is delighted to be back in action after a prolonged spell on the sidelines.

The former Manchester City ace has endured three months of rehab for a persistent back problem, but made a welcome return to the squad last weekend for the visit of Eastleigh.

Hardy made an immediate impact, coming off the bench to set up a late equaliser and is now relishing his opportunity to get back into the side…

James, how does it feel to finally be back from injury?

It’s been really good to be back involved with the lads over the last few weeks. It’s been tough because it’s been quite a while that I’ve been out for, just over three months, but I’ve enjoyed being back in the group. 

It can take a bit of time to get your match fitness back but we’ve had a few friendly matches so I am getting there. I feel quite sharp so it shouldn’t be too long until I’m fully back. I’ve just got to be patient and keep working hard.

What exactly was the injury?

I’ve had a back problem. It’s a bit of a reoccurrence of what I had towards the end of last season. It’s a really annoying injury because the rehab is pretty boring. Your body just goes into complete shutdown and it’s quite tough mentally. It felt like it was forever but finally it should be over.

Can you us an idea of the rehab you’ve had to go through to recover from the injury?

I was out for about 12 to 14 weeks. I went to see the specialist and he said to pretty much go into shutdown for six weeks. I could do a light core work and go on the bike but I couldn’t do any strenuous exercise really. 

After six weeks, I got the all clear and was then advised that it would take another six weeks to get back into full training. After the first six weeks was out the way, it was a lot better because you can be doing more stuff. I still do my programme every day now so hopefully that will continue to help.

How much are you looking forward to your battle to get back into the starting XI?

You want all the lads to be playing well to be fair. It’s been good to have me and Henry (Jones) back now pushing the lads and adding competition to the forward places. It’s all healthy competition because they’re all good players and we all want to be on the pitch.

The three up front have been doing really well and Rowey has just been banging them in which is pretty normal to be honest. I’m looking forward to the battle with them when I’m fully fit. I know I’ve got to be patient but when I get my chance, I know I’ve got to take it.

The club were 17th in the table on Boxing Day, we are now in the Play-Offs. This run of form has been remarkable hasn’t it?

It’s been crazy to watch really. It feels a lot better coming back into a team that are fighting for the playoffs instead of looking over our shoulders at the wrong end of the table. The feeling around the place has been really good and the lads have all been on fire.

Leyton Orient up next at the weekend. Does their league position surprise you?

It does actually. I thought when we played that at their place, they were one of the better sides we’ve come up against this season. They passed it around quite well. I reckon that if we play as well as we know we can then we should get the three points on Saturday but it won’t be easy by any means.

The promotion dream is on … is being seventh in the table surreal?

I think as a group we expected to do well. Maybe not this well but to be fair and we’re not a million miles off the top of the table. The league is really close this year, more so than most other years really. 

I wouldn’t say that we’re shocked to be there but we’ve probably done a little bit better than people expected because we’re new to the division. We’re all just enjoying it right now.