DEFENDER Wayne Thomas’s first game of the year proved a real baptism of fire as Doncaster Rovers crashed to their biggest home league defeat for over a decade.
To be fair to the 31-year-old centre-back, Rovers were already trailing 3-0 against Ipswich Town - who went on to score another three without reply - when he came on at the start of the second half.
Ironically. Rovers were also on the receiving end of a drubbing (5-1 at Leicester) in Thomas’s last game for the club in early December.
He tore a calf during training the following week and aggravated the injury injury again earlier this year.
“I think I tried to come back a little bit too soon and I tore it again,” he recalled.
“Calf injuries are a nightmare because they have a nasty habit of going again if you don’t get them right as it showed in my case.
“It was frustrating time; it always is when you are out injured for any length of time. I obviously couldn’t do any running for quite a few weeks but I tried to keep as fit as I could in the gym.
“I’d been back in full training for ten days or so (prior to the Ipswich game) but I obviously wasn’t match fit. The only way you get match fit is by playing games.”
“I was obviously hoping to be involved in the Ipswich game but I thought that the back-four had been relatively solid in the previous couple of games.
“I think that they had been settled which is a key thing because it is vital for a back-four to have a bit of consistency with your playing partner and I think that showed in the Burnley and Mill wall games - they all did well.
“When your back-four changes every other week, as ours had done for much of this season, you are always going to have problems.
“As a centre-back, for instance, you have to know what your fellow centre-back is going to do.
“When playing regularly with someone you pick up signs as to whether they are going in to win a header or whether they are going drop off; what sides he likes to go and what he likes to do (with the ball).
“That only comes with playing alongside them and the more you play together, the better it is.”
Thomas’s return to the squad coincides with arguably Rovers’ toughest spell of the season with four away games in the next month against sides currently holding down a top six spot - starting with back-to-back away games against Swansea and Norwich.
“They are both up there and on paper they are both really tough games, “ said Thomas.
“But we drew with Swansea, who scored a late equaliser, at home, and we also beat Norwich at home.
“Swansea play some unbelievable football at times and they have got some very good players,
“As I say, they are both tough games but anybody can beat anyone else in this league.”
Thomas is aware that Rovers need to check their slide down the table.
“We need to try and string a few wins together,” he said.
“You take a block of four games and you take each one as it comes and then add your points up at the end of the four games.