PAUL CARDEN is hoping to put a frustrating start to his Accrington Stanley career behind him and play a big part in moving them up the League Two table.
The midfielder was the Reds first summer signing but has yet to make his League debut after picking up a niggling calf injury in pre-season.
But the 28-year-old is on the road to recovery and was on the bench for Stanley's 4-1 win over Grimsby on Saturday - and now he is keen to make a bigger impact.
He came through 90 minutes of the Reds' 2-1 reserve win over Rochdale on Wednesday and, though he admitted his calf had swelled up, he is confident the Stanley fans will soon see the best of him.
"I have got my first 90 minutes under my belt and I feel better and hopefully I will get a few more and start pushing for a first team spot," said the former Blackpool, Chester and Peterborough man.
"I injured my calf at Squires Gate and it was more frustrating than anything because it was five weeks into pre-season, the season was only a week away, and to do all the hard work and then sort of throw it all away was frustrating, especially in a nothing game really."
He admitted it has been hard being on the sidelines as he was brought to add experience to a young midfield but could do nothing as the Reds, after winning their opening game, suffered three league losses which saw them fall to the bottom of the table.
"I felt the same as everyone else who was watching us when results weren't going for us," said Carden.
"I have always known we have good players here and it has just been a case of things not going right at both ends.
"And I also felt worse because I couldn't be there because of a stupid injury.
"I have had decent treatment and have been working hard to get fit.
"I was just glad to be involved in some capacity on Saturday, it was just a relief to do the warm-up and be part of that, because I was injured for four or five weeks and I was the only one and the treatment room becomes a lonely place.
"The physio Soss (Ian Liversedge) keeps you occupied but he is not the funniest of people!
"But hopefully I can push for a start now."
The huge win over Grimsby was just what Stanley needed after suffering a goal drought before that - just one league goal scored in four games.
"Everything came together for us on Saturday," continued Carden, as the Reds have now moved up to 16th place.
"We kept them out and were unfortunate to concede and then we looked dangerous every time we went forward and hopefully we can continue that for the rest of the season."
With Stanley on a high, Carden does face a battle to get into the team especially as one of his rivals for the midfield spot, Andy Procter, slotted home two goals. But Carden is full of praise for the 24-year-old.
"Andy took his goals really well and I am made up for him because he does work hard for the team.
"I think if everyone followed his lead and worked as hard as him, we would pick up a lot more points as it showed on Saturday - because the lads worked hard, they got their rewards."
And Procter says he relishes any competition for places.
"I don't mind. We have a lot of competition all over the park but especially in midfield but it keeps people on their toes and keeps people performing. You cannot have a gripe if you don't perform and are dropped," said the former Great Harwood man.
It is a big month for the Reds as, after playing teams with hopes of League One football next season in their opening four games, they now come up against teams around them in the league.
They do face promotion-chasing Shrewsbury at the New Meadow tomorrow but then they take on the likes of Mansfield, Bury and Wrexham.
"We have got teams coming up who are probably on equal budgets and similar gates to ourselves," added Carden.
"When you look at the likes of Wycombe, Peterborough and Darlington, who we have played, they have all spent a bit."
Carden continued: "If you are being honest, we were the underdogs and going into this month now we are playing teams of equal standard so we should be trying to pick up as many points as possible as these are winnable games."
However tomorrow's job at Shrewsbury is a tough one at their new home, the New Meadow.
They currently lie in third place in the league and have made a good start to the campaign with just one league loss.
The Reds should have recent addition Sean Webb in their squad after he returned from Northern Ireland duty although he did not play in the two Group F defeats.
The 22-year-old defender was signed on transfer deadline week and linked up with the Reds in training for the first time today.
Boss John Coleman, though, is waiting on the fitness of Rommy Boco, who missed last week's victory with a hamstring injury. The Benin international is waiting to see if there is any reaction today.
Winger John Miles is hoping to have shrugged off a groin injury while striker Lee McEvilly sits out the last game of his three match suspension and Leighton McGivern will miss his second game after his dismissal for the reserves.
Meanwhile, young winger Bobby Grant suffered concussion in the reserve clash on Wednesday.
STANLEY'S second string are in action at Tranmere next Wednesday (ko 7pm).