Young striker Matty Smith is aiming to start making up for lost time when he lines up for Dundee United against Linfield in the Irn-Bru Cup at Tannadice this evening.
Back in July, the 20-year-old local boy earned praise from boss Ray McKinnon when he turned in a starring performance and grabbed one of the goals in a 4-1 Betfred Cup win at Tannadice.
Impressed by his work during the pre-season in general, Ray even went so far as stating he now regarded the attacker as part of the first-team squad.
And that display saw him pencilled in for another start when United were due to make the short trip over the road to city rivals Dundee for the final tie of the group stages.
For Smith, though, that’s when disaster struck.
An injury picked up in training just three days before the derby didn’t just rule him out of that one but would eventually sideline him for six frustrating weeks.
“I was gutted because I think I was starting the derby but, as soon as it happened, I knew I was missing out,” he said.
“It was a tackle, quite a bad one, but I’m not going to say who did it. They didn’t mean it and they were sorry.
“But it was hard to take when I’d just got into the team and done well, then knew I’d be involved in a big game like Dundee. Being out for so long was a nightmare as well.”
Smith’s now been back in full training for a few weeks and had a couple of games, scoring a couple of times in a friendly against Lochee United and turning out in the Development League against St Mirren earlier this week.
His involvement will go a long way to getting him back to 100% match fitness and, having seen other youngsters impress in the Irn-Bru ties to date, he’s delighted his chance has now come.
“It’s been good to get a couple of games and a couple goals as well. I feel I’ve played well in them and I just need to get my sharpness back. That will come from playing games.”
Having had that early-season pat on the back from the boss, he’s determined to force his way back into the reckoning for involvement in United’s promotion push.
“I’ve played well in the three appearances I’ve made for the first team and, hopefully, I can make it a fourth in this one and take things from there.
“I didn’t play last season but I got a taste at the end of the season before and, hopefully, now I can get a run of games.”
And if the league is the big priority, Smith is eyeing the chance to maybe get his hands on some silverware and help United repeat their Challenge Cup success of last season.
“Quite a few of the young ones have been playing in this cup and I think the manager will keep giving us our chance so long as we stay in it.
“I wasn’t involved last year because I was out on loan but I was at the final and it was a good day out.
“If you’re in a competition, you want to do well in it.”
Not that he is taking Linfield, the reigning Northern Irish champions, lightly. While admitting they are something of an unknown quantity, he’s gathered enough information on them to expect a tough tie.
“I don’t know much about them but I’m told they’re a big, strong side and we’ll have to play well.
“They’ve experience of Champions League qualifiers, so they’ll be used to playing against some good teams.”