GOALKEEPER Jamie Stephens gave Newport County AFC manager Justin Edinburgh a big boost this week as he returned to fitness.
The 20-year-old played for 45 minutes in Tuesday’s friendly against Cheltenham Town reserves and could feature against Dagenham & Redbridge in League Two this weekend.
Stephens has been sidelined since tearing his hamstring in a rare first team appearance in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Peterborough United on December 10.
That left County with only defender Andy Sandell as back-up for number one Lenny Pidgeley and the situation was further complicated when Pidgeley broke his thumb at Burton Albion on December 29.
But with Stephens coming through 45 minutes unscathed he may even be ready to start against the Daggers on Saturday to enable Pidgeley to rest his injury.
“It felt fine and it was nice to be back playing,” said Stephens after the Cheltenham warm-up game.
“It was good to get a bit of time out on the pitch and I think the lads did well for most of the match. It wasn’t the best of surfaces but I enjoyed it.
“It’s not for me to say whether I’m fit to play really,” he added. “It’s up to the gaffer and Rochey (physio Adam Roche) but I felt good out there.
“All I can do is keep training and hopefully it’ll be alright.”
Stephens admits that he has been frustrated to be ruled out for the past month due to the first serious injury of his fledgling career.
“It was one of my worst days in football,” he said of being forced off against Peterborough.
“I’ve never been injured like that, never done my hamstring before so it was not nice.
“It’s never nice being injured. It’s a horrible thing but you’ve just got to stay positive and hopefully you get back sooner rather than later.
“Lenny’s got a knock on his thumb as well but you can’t knock Lenny,” he added. “He’s been very consistent throughout the season.
“We’re good friends on and off the pitch and we try to bring the best out of each other.
“We’ve struggled for cover for Lenny. We saw Sands in goal in training in Germany in pre-season and he was pretty brave and gave it a good go but hopefully it doesn’t come to that!
“I think we’ll be OK. Lenny looks after himself well and hopefully I’ll be back soon.”