The arrival of 2012 proved a happy one for Clarke Carlisle.
His five-week spell out of the Preston team came to an end when he earned a recall for the Rochdale game.
Carlisle lost his place when a fifth yellow card of the campaign in the FA Cup replay defeat at Southend triggered a one-match ban.
Former PNE boss Phil Brown brought in Jamie McCombe on loan to cover Carlisle’s absence for the visit to Bury at the end of November.
And McCombe went on to keep Carlisle on the bench until Monday.
Graham Alexander and David Unsworth opted for the more mobile Carlisle at Spotland, McCombe not making the 16-man squad.
And the 6ft 6ins centre-half returned to Huddersfield the following day when his loan spell ran out.
North End haven’t sought to extend the loan, and that could lead to an extended run in the side for PFA chairman Carlisle.
The 32-year-old said: “I was pleased to make it through 90 minutes at Rochdale because it had been five weeks or so since I last played.
“I still felt like I had more in the tank at the end, which is good.
“That reflects well on the training sessions and conditioning which we do here.
“The training we have been doing has been high intensity, although nothing replicates 90 minutes in a first-team game.
“It was a very tough game at Rochdale – they were playing with a freedom which our lads have been doing for the last two or three weeks.
“That tends to happen when you’ve had a change of manager.
“Rochdale moved us around really well but fortunately we coped with that as a unit.
“It was a shame we didn’t offer too much in terms of attack.
“But I think we can focus on a good defensive performance.”
Carlisle’s return to the side saw him link up in the centre of defence with Craig Morgan.
That was the partnership which opened the season against Colchester in August but was swiftly broken up after a 4-2 defeat.
It briefly came together again for the Carling Cup win at Charlton in September but it was to be early November before Carlisle and Morgan were reunited.
They had a four-game run together in the side in which just two goals were conceded – that also coincided with Thorsten Stuckmann’s arrival behind them.
One thing which Carlisle has had to get his head around lately is seeing close pal Graham Alexander in the joint-caretaker manager role with David Unsworth.
They were team-mates at Burnley for four years, striking up a good friendship, before both joined PNE in the summer.
Said Carlisle: “It’s been a bit bizarre seeing a friend cross the line into management.
“At first you’re not quite sure how to address him and what the banter limits are.
“But Graham and David commanded immediate respect.”