Grimsby Town's Scott Neilson ready for comeback following suspension
FOR the first time in three weeks, Scott Neilson will wake up tomorrow morning and have a game to look forward to.
That's because the 25-year-old has been forced to miss Grimsby Town's last three fixtures after being shown a straight red card against Macclesfield last month.
It was the first time that the winger, on loan from Crawley, had ever been sent off in his career and being suspended is an experience he's in no rush to repeat.
"It's not been nice," he told the Telegraph. "I just can't wait to get back into it now.
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"It's been horrible waking up on a Saturday morning and not having a game to look forward to.
"I definitely regret the sending off," he continued.
"Looking back, the whole team had been grafting for 80 minutes and then we gave away a penalty and dropped three points, so I was massively frustrated but that's no excuse.
"I don't know if it was a sending off – maybe it was because I kicked out and that's seen as violent conduct, so I got the red and now I've served the suspension.
"But the experience of being forced to sit out has made me doubly determined to make sure that I don't let it happen again.
"It was the first time that I'd been sent off in my career so to have that against my name is a bit gutting but it's about putting that behind me and getting on with it."
Tomorrow's game against Braintree – a town not far from Neilson's native London – presents the winger with an opportunity to regain his place in the Town side after his three-week absence.
And he says he can't wait to get back to first-team action again, after a 65-minute run-out for the Reserves in midweek.
He said: "It hasn't been a nice feeling being out so it would be good to get back tomorrow.
"I've been training hard this week and had a run out for the Reserves on Tuesday and I feel fresh. I'm eager to get back, hopefully I've done enough to impress the gaffers and earn a place back in the side.
"Before the sending off, things were going well for me and the team. Obviously while I've been out we've picked up six points from a possible nine and now I just want to get back, give the side a bit of a boost if I can."
The decision to recall Neilson for tomorrow's matchday squad may have been made that bit easier for bosses Rob Scott and Paul Hurst by the fact that Joe Colbeck is expected to miss the game through injury.
And while Neilson says it is never nice to see a team-mate struck down by injury, he admits that Colbeck's expected lay-off does makes his route back into the team a little clearer.
He said: "For me, after serving my suspension it's now just about working hard to get back in their plans. But the team has been doing well and it's always hard to change a winning side so we'll have to see what happens tomorrow afternoon.
"It's never nice to see someone get injured but the fact that Joe is ruled out may make some decisions a bit easier for the managers. Obviously Marcus (Marshall) has come in and done well as well," he added.
"That has definitely brought a bit of competition which can only be a good thing in any team that you're in, whether you're on loan or on a permanent deal.
"You've just got to go out there every day, play your game and hope that you do enough to earn, and then keep, your place in the side."
Just the mention of tomorrow's opponents is enough to conjure up memories of the Iron's 5-0 humbling of Town in Essex last season.
And Neilson has been made fully aware of that painful defeat.
"I've heard about the Braintree result from last season and it certainly didn't sound good," he said.
"But the lads are feeling positive ahead of the game.
"We've just got to be creative and put them on the back foot.
"We went through a patch when we made silly little mistakes that cost us points and we need to cut that out and be solid tomorrow.
"We need to create chances, put them away and get the win.
The Mariners go into the game sitting second in the Blue Square Bet Premier, albeit having played more games than many of their promotion rivals.
Neilson, a man with experience of successful promotion campaigns from the Conference, said: "A lot of people are saying about the games that the teams around us have to play, but it's all about getting the points on the board.
"I remember when I was involved in the promotion race with Crawley, Wimbledon had the points on the board and we had loads of games in hand, meaning that we were always looking up at them and going looking for the points to catch them up.
"It's not ideal and you would always rather have the points on the table, especially around December and January, because that is always a crucial part of the season so we're well placed. As I see it, the plan is to be top by Christmas and that's what I'm aiming to help the team to do. If we do that, we'll be in a really strong position."