After the best part of two months on the sidelines with an ankle injury, Dundee United attacker Blair Spittal is delighted be back.
But at this vital time of the campaign, the 21-year-old knows simply being on the pitch isn’t enough — he and his team-mates must be stepping up to the mark to make sure the Tangerines have the best possible chance of winning promotion.
And pleased as he was to make his return at Queen of the South on Saturday, Spittal knows that was not the case as United went down 4-2.
When he went off in the 3-0 defeat at Falkirk in early February there were fears he’d broken his ankle, meaning his season could be over.
X-rays revealed ligament damage but no break and, while that in itself was bad enough, it meant his absence would be seven weeks.
And with fellow-attacker Scott Fraser seeing his season ended by a broken foot and club captain Sean Dillon also suffering a premature end to his campaign because of an injury similar to Spittal’s, his return is timely for a squad that’s stretched.
After missing seven games and a big chunk of training he’s not yet back to full match fitness but appreciates with such a vital period coming up, he has to be making a contribution.
“I didn’t really expect to be involved at Queen of the South because the Development game last Thursday was my first since the injury,” he said.
“When the gaffer said he wanted me on the bench for the first team I was delighted because you always want to be involved.
“This is an important time and I don’t want to be sitting watching games during this spell.
“I took part in this week’s Development League game and that’s got my fitness up to something like where it needs to be.”
That should put him in a position to make a telling contribution at first-team level and he accepts as a group, with the play-offs looming, the United players must now find form.
The Challenge Cup Final win over St Mirren and the victory over Ayr that followed suggested that was the case. But the tame display at Palmerston was another setback and he knows the time has come to put things right.
“It was nice to be back but, obviously, the result on Saturday was not good enough,” he added
“The fans travelled down in good numbers and they deserve better than we gave them. It’s not nice to see them go home without us getting three points from these trips.
“Now we have to dust ourselves down from Saturday and get going again because we want a good run that sees us win as many games as we can before the league finishes.”
Even though it’s second-place Falkirk who come to Tannadice on Saturday, a home record that’s the envy of the rest of the Championship means there is reason to believe there will be a return to winning ways.
Away from home it’s a different story. Only relegation-threatened Raith Rovers have lost more times on the road than United, for whom the weekend defeat was an eighth away from Tannadice in the Championship.
With as many as three home-and-away ties to be negotiated when the play-offs come round, Spittal knows that form must improve.
“At the start of the season we were going away from home feeling confident we could win but knowing even if we weren’t playing our best we would pick up a point.
“We need to get back to that because recently it’s not been good enough. It’s been a sticky patch and we have to get through it quickly.”