A match against Notts County will always be poignant for Preston North End’s Scott Laird.
The left-back broke his left leg in a goalless draw with the Magpies in November 2012 after being on the receiving end of a reckless challenge from Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
He spent eight months on the sidelines recovering and has been back in action for the last seven months.
Laird admits that he is yet to fire on all cylinders since the injury but is edging closer to the level he was at before the injury.
Notts County visit Deepdale tomorrow (3pm) and are likely to have Campbell-Ryce in their squad.
Him and Laird have not faced each other on the pitch since that November night 14 months ago.
Laird did play in Preston’s 1-0 at Meadow Lane earlier this season, but a role as an unused substitute was as good as it got for Campbell-Ryce.
The 25-year-old insists that the slate is wiped clean as far as Campbell-Ryce’s challenge is concerned.
He holds no grudges and his concentration will be focused on three points tomorrow as oppose to any sense of injustice.
By a twist of fate, the referee in charge on the night of Laird’s leg break – Tony Harrington – is the man in the middle tomorrow.
On the subject of potentially facing Campbell-Ryce, fans’ favourite Laird told the Evening Post: “It doesn’t matter who I’m playing against on the pitch.
“If there is a tackle there to be made, it gets made. It doesn’t matter if I like or dislike a person.
“The tackle which broke my leg was a bad tackle, a silly one, but I don’t hold grudges.
“That is football, it happens, and if I am picked tomorrow I will be ready and raring to go.
“Considering this is my first season back after eight or nine months out, I’m pleased with how I’m doing.
“Some people keep saying that I should be back to my best by now.
“I’m not at my peak yet, and in terms of my career, my best years are ahead of me.
“In the next two or three years I will be at my peak and I know I can better from where I’m at now.
“A bad injury can finish some players off, they just can’t get back.
“But some players grow stronger after a bad injury and I have come back stronger for the experience.
“I’m just taking a bit to get going again, for example I haven’t scored as many goals as I would have liked.
“At Bradford on Tuesday I had two or three good chances but they didn’t go into the net.
“If I wasn’t getting into those positions in the first place, then I would be more worried.
“Some of the fans are thinking that I haven’t set the world alight, but 10 assists this season show that I’m doing alright.
“As much as I care about my personal achievements, the main thing is the team doing well.
“We are doing alright and it is just about turning a few of the draws into wins.
“The squad is strong, and there are some players sat on the bench or in the stand who would walk into most League One sides.”
Laird was handed his first league start in more than a month in the midweek goalless draw at Bradford.
In the first half of the season he had largely been preferred to David Buchanan on the left side of the North End side.
But with Laird beginning to get leg-heavy after a long run of games, Buchanan returned to the team at Carlisle on Boxing Day and stayed in.
Laird said: “I played about 20 games in a row after getting back into the side earlier in the season.
“Coming up to Christmas I was getting a bit tired. We were playing a 3-5-2 with me at left wing-back which is a challenging role and requires a lot of getting up and down the pitch.
“The manager made the decision to take me out of the team, we changed to a 4-4-2 over Christmas and got some really good results.
“I came back in for the FA Cup replay against Ipswich which we won, and then I got back in on Tuesday night at Bradford and did alright.”
Tomorrow’s game will see PNE chasing their first league win since New Year’s Day, with them having lost at Wolves and drawn with Coventry and Bradford since.
The three clubs above them have pulled clear in that time, but Laird thinks that the gap can be bridged. He said: “We know that we can catch those three clubs because we have done it before.
“I think in October we were 13-15 points off them and by Christmas had got that down to three or four points.
“So we have done it before and there is no reason why we can’t do it again.
“We have drawn a few too many games and the key will be turning them into wins.
“As far as losing is concerned, we have only been beaten four times which is the same as Brentford and Wolves.
“We just need to put or chances away, at Bradford we hit the woodwork twice and went close a few times.”