Paul Coutts took a significant step in his recovery from his broken leg yesterday when he played 70 minutes for Sheffield United's U23s.
The Scottish midfielder has been out of action since last November, when a bad challenge from Burton Albion's Marvin Sordell broke his tibia and all-but ended United's hopes of a second promotion in a row.
Coutts played a part in Matt Roney's testimonial game at Sheffield FC last midweek, and followed that up with 70 minutes as United’s U23s beat a physical Charlton side 2-1 at their Steelphalt Academy training base.
Jordan Hallam and Harry Boyes scored the goals for United, turning the game around after Jamie Mascoll had put the visitors ahead by pouncing on a poor kick by home goalkeeper Jake Eastwood.
But it was the appearance of Coutts on the teamsheet, and the fact he came through the outing unscathed, that meant the most to United, who also gave valuable minutes to George Baldock and Martin Cranie in their pursuit of full fitness.
Coutts, wearing the captain's armband, was heavily involved from the start and used the ball typically well, but also showed no signs of pulling out of challenges as the game became increasingly physical.
In a game of few chances, Eastwood had to be alert early on to snuff out a dangerous-looking attack – and release the ball before he slid out of his area on a pleasant day at Shirecliffe – but he was culpable for the opening goal, underhitting an attempted pass to his centre-halves and instead only finding Mascoll.
The Charlton striker took a touch and could scarcely believe his luck, before finding the bottom corner with his effort.
The lively Hallam volleyed just wide with a well-struck effort at the other end just before half-time, and the impressive Jordan Greaves forced the first real save of the game from Charlton goalkeeper Ashley Maynard-Brewer after the teams had turned around.
But the Aussie goalkeeper could do little about United's equaliser, finished well by Hallam after a good pass from Greaves on 52 minutes, but got closer to what turned out to be the winner.
Baldock combined well with Greaves and his cross across the face of goal was met by left winger Harry Boyes, whose shot found the back of the net from an acute angle via a touch from Maynard-Brewer.
Baldock was replaced after an hour of his comeback game after injury, while new boy Cranie played 70 minutes.
United coach John Dungworth said: "I thought the senior lads did really well and the second half performance was much improved."