Alex Baptiste is ready to make his return from a knee injury as Preston North End prepare for their crucial Championship run-in over the next couple of weeks.
The 31-year-old played for just the second time in 2017 on Tuesday in a behind-closed-doors game against Fleetwood Town. Before then, his last piece of action came in a 1-0 away win over Burton Albion in early January – just days prior to the injury he suffered in training later that week.
“It’s been a long few months and obviously it was good to play and get the start again,” Baptiste said after facing the Cod Army. “It’s good to be back because it’s been a frustrating few months.
“It’s been a long time and especially when I did it [suffered the injury], I thought I’d done something really bad. But it’s great to get back playing again and training again and I just need to get my sharpness back and stuff like that. So it’s happy days.
“I’m working hard and it [the sharpness] will come. That was my first proper game. I just need to iron out and get the positioning and the turns, stuff like that back. They were a good side so it was good to play.”
Baptiste’s return comes at a vital time for Simon Grayson’s side, who enter the final period of the Championship season just five points behind the play-off spots with eight games remaining.
The defender, on loan from Premier League side Middlesbrough, already has the experience of being promoted to the top flight with rivals Blackpool seven years ago. He now believes that the side must not look further than the next game at this pivotal stage of the campaign, with Nottingham Forest next up at Deepdale on Saturday.
“There’s no point looking and thinking ‘they’ve got this team, they’ve got that team, we should win this game’. It’s all about the 90 minutes, doing the job that you can do and then hope for the best.
“If you start looking ahead and saying ‘we should have these points, these points and these points’ – it doesn’t really work like that. If you start doing that, you lose track so it’s a massive game against Forest and then you go again to Bristol City.
“Every team in this Championship can win against every team, there’s no points for granted. We’re only five points off the play-offs and we’ve got two home games that are winnable, then obviously we have Leeds coming up afterwards, but we need to take every game as it comes.
“This is where you earn your money – this time of the season. You want to be in the top six and I’d say we’ve got a massive chance. Every game is winnable, so it’s good to be a part of it.”