Joe Garner has thanked the Preston North End back room staff for getting him fit and back into goalscoring mode.
The hot-shot striker netted both of PNE’s goals in their 2-0 victory over 10-man Chesterfield at the Proact Stadium last night.
It was his first start following surgery to repair a shin injury in November, Lilywhites boss Simon Grayson having seen enough in training and two substitutes appearances to be satisfied he had made a full recovery.
Garner repaid that faith with the double strike which took his tally for the campaign to 14.
He netted in either half, heading home a pinpoint cross from Kevin Davies in the 30th minute to give North End the lead.
That was an advantage he doubled 12 minutes from time, scoring from close range after a Davies effort had come back off the bar.
The Spireites played 88 minutes without centre-half Sam Hird who was shown a red card for tripping Garner as he sprinted clear on goal.
After the first goal, Garner ran to celebrate with physio Matt Jackson and fitness coach Tom Little on the bench.
Garner said:”It is always nice to score, I have worked hard with the physio since I’ve been injured.
“I felt sharp out there and I’m just happy to be back.
“Afterwards in the dressing room I had a laugh with Kevin Davies about where that cross had come from – he is normally on the end of them.
“He knew what I was doing, I went to the back stick and then came across the front and he put it in perfectly for me.
“I went to celebrate with a couple of the medical staff, the people who have had me swimming hundreds of lengths for the last three months!
“Seriously,I wanted to say thanks to them.
“Jacko had worked really hard with me and every credit that he got me back fit stronger than I was before.
“My leg feels fine. It is nothing to do with my knee joint, a tendon came off the bone in my shin which was a bit rare according to the surgeon.
“It feels strong and everything is fine now.”
Garner described how he had gambled to be in the right place at the right time to score the second goal.
The 26-year-old said:”I saw Kevin was leaning back with his shot so it was always going to go high, I didn’t think he could find the net like that.
“So I gambled on his shot hitting the bar and fortunately it came back to me and I managed to put it in.
“It was a big win for us, we can close the gap on the sides above because we are a quality side and have a great squad.
“There is a great team spirit and when we click there are not many teams who can live with us.”
Garner always felt confident he would get in action within the time scale which had been mentioned when he got the injury.
He said: “When I saw the surgeon he said it would be three or four months out.
“I worked hard in the gym, went in on Saturday mornings when the lads were away.
“I don’t like being injured but that is part and parcel of the game.
“The way I play I’m always going to get knocks and I was just a bit unlucky with this one.”
North End boss Grayson said: “It was a good performance from us.
“Joe has trained over the last week or so like he has never been away, we have made sure we have guided him back properly.
“He was itching to play and I told him to go and play for as long as he thought he could do.
“Joe was actually gutted when I took him off because he wanted to score a hat-trick.”