John Brayford, the Sheffield United defender, revealed he “felt like a kid” after making his long-awaited return from injury.
Brayford, a £1.5m signing from Cardiff City, had been absent since last season’s League One play-off semi-finals before completing Saturday’s 1-1 draw with South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley.
Nigel Adkins paid tribute to the full-back’s stamina and determination after dismissing claims United’s coaching staff had taken a calculated risk by naming him in the starting eleven.
Although Conor Hourihane’s 94th minute equaliser cast a shadow over the occasion, Brayford told The Star: “It’s been a while but to come back and start was brilliant. It just felt great to be back out there with the lads. “I want to do my fair share. It was like making my debut all over again, when I was running out I felt like a bit of a kid. Once the whistle blew I tried to put all of that out of my mind. It was lovely, don’t get me wrong. But I’d have much rather than we’d won.”
Despite cutting a frustrated figure after 12th placed United failed to win a match they had led since Chris Basham’s goal midway through the first-half, Adkins insisted their combative display proved an important point following Tuesday’s “unacceptable” home defeat by Shrewsbury Town.
“We got some response from the other night,” he said. “There was a definite togetherness about everybody which is so important but we haven’t got the victory or the clean sheet we’ve come here to get.”
Adkins’ disappointment was further compounded by news Jamal Campbell Ryce and David Edgar had both sustained hamstring injuries during a match which, despite Hourihane’s intervention, saw Barnsley finish the afternoon bottom of the table.
Edgar only recovered from a similar complaint earlier this month and Adkins said: “It’s a shame we’ve lost Campbell-Ryce with a hamstring injury and David Edgar too. I hope that it’s not too much of a reocurence of the one that he’s been out with. Jamal was in full flight running down the wing so we’ll just have to assess that one. David felt something at half-time but was assessed and, to his credit, was adamant that he could carry on. David wanted to help the lads and it definitely seemed as if he was okay to do so during the break.”