Midfielder Alex MacDonald paid homage to the Stags’ faithful after netting a superb solo goal during Mansfield Town’s 4-2 victory against Cheltenham Town.
MacDonald had been sidelined for five months following an injury he suffered against Cambridge United in September, and today marked only his second appearance since returning to full fitness.
Leading on from a substitute appearance against Notts County, the much-loved midfielder replaced teammate Nicky Ajose and duly wrapped up proceedings with a fine goal that began at the half-way line.
However, despite notching his first goal of the season, MacDonald instead deflected praise onto the Mansfield contingent.
“The goal meant the world to me, to be honest,” the midfielder affirmed.
“I know I played at Notts County but to be out in front of our home fans – who are magnificent and have been since the day I walked in – hearing them sing my name after I’d scored was a proud moment for me.
“When you’ve got all the players that you’ve watched for five months, they have seen bits and pieces of how hard it’s been for me personally, I’m the kind of character that needs to be involved in football so when that got taken away from me it hurt me.
“To be back involved when we were celebrating I tried to keep the boys around me for as long as I could. It was nice to hear the lads say some things to me.
“It was just about how pleased and happy they were for me, saying that all that hard work has paid off. I respect them and thank them for that.”
"I know I played at Notts County but to be out in front of our home fans – who are magnificent and have been since the day I walked in – hearing them sing my name after I’d scored was a proud moment for me."
The 28-year-old, who cut an emotional figure, explained his personal battle to regain match sharpness following the injury lay-off.
“It has been hard – it must be over five months since I’ve really played in the first team and over the last couple of weeks it’s been hard sitting there and watching.
“But I realise the task I’ve got trying to get back in this team. It is a team that’s playing very well at the top of the division and I’m realistic to know I won’t just walk back into it.
“I’ve got a lot of hard miles to go, but the goal was quite special – it’s been a long, hard slog since being injured.
“When you’re in the gym on your own, you don’t realise how hard it is. Players have told me in the past about how lonely it can be when you’re injured and how much you don’t feel part of it.
“I hope that I don’t have to experience that again. I want to keep myself fit and play in big games like that; I want to contribute towards the team because it’s something I feel I can do.”
MacDonald then noted the key aspects behind his magnificent finish, before spelling out his ambitions for the remainder of the season.
“It’s not something I’m known for, showing a bit of pace,” he joked. “I think I raised a few eyebrows when I raced through!
“I got put in that position and I just tried to close the ball down, it ricocheted to me and I took a good touch past their right-back.
“I was one-on-one with their ‘keeper and luckily I put in the back of the net.
“I want more minutes and I want to keep contributing and helping the lads in training. I’ll do everything I can in training to get myself into the manager’s thoughts to be in that starting XI.”
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