It may have only been 16 minutes but being pack out on the pitch meant the world to Edinburgh City captain Josh Walker.
It has been a gruelling six months for the former Middlesbrough and Aberdeen midfielder who, prior to last Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Elgin City, had only played a paltry 70 minutes in a white jersey, at Clyde in this season’s opening Betfred Cup match in July.
A recurring knee problem had forced Walker to watch in awe has his team-mates rolled out win after win to sit top of Ladbrokes League Two tree.
Despite the feelgood factor that has inhabited the club for the vast majority of the campaign, on a personal level, Walker admits it has been different narrative.
However, just being back on the team bus for last weekend’s trip to Borough Briggs with the prospect of getting some much-needed game time under his belt was a massive weight off the Englishman’s shoulders.
“It really has been a horrendous season for me,” the 30-year-old told the Evening News ahead of tomorrow’s visit of bottom club Albion Rovers.
“I don’t feel like I have contributed to anything on the field since last season. As much as it’s been brilliant to see the lads doing so well, it’s been so frustrating. It’s alright being on the sidelines cheering them on but it’s not the same as being out there on the pitch yourself.
“So, to be on the bench last weekend and come on for the last 15 minutes was just brilliant to be a part of. I was on such a high when the gaffer told me I was going on.
“It was great when Thommo (Craig Thomson) came over to me and gave me the armband and that shows the level of respect we have in the group. He’s done a fantastic job in my absence. My body feels great so physically I’m getting stronger and training has been going really well. The match sharpness will come through getting more minutes under my belt. I’ve still got the same desire as I had when I was 18 at Middlesbrough so that’s not a problem.”
Although Walker admits it was disappointing to leave Morayshire with just a point for their endeavours – City had fought back from two goals down to lead 3-2 only for Elgin to snatch a draw three minutes into stoppage time – he believes morale remains high in the camp, including goalkeeper Calum Antell, whose mistake gifted last weekend’s opposition a point.
“All the games at this stage of the season are important,” he said. “I feel like a new player coming in because I’ve not had the chance to show some of the new guys in the side what I can do. But to come back into this side, captain or not, I’ve got to show I deserve to play.
“There’s a good feeling just now, including Calum. Being a goalkeeper is an unforgiving position. If you make a great save then people will say ‘well that’s what you’re there for’ whereas if you make a mistake then everyone is on your back.
“Callum has been different class all season with the saves he’s made. He knows he made an error last weekend but he’s got a great mentality and he’s been brilliant at training this week. He’s focused on the next game.
“Most teams in this league have something to play for so it’s going to be an exciting second half to the season. We know every game counts.
“Albion Rovers are fighting for their lives so we expect them to come and attack. I think the league will go right down to the wire. You only have to look at Annan who have beaten us and Peterhead in the last fortnight so it’s amazing how quickly things can change.”