It was with a big sense of relief that Preston midfielder Ryan Ledson returned to the pitch at the weekend after a suspension which to him seemed to drag on for ever.
Ledson came back into the North End engine room for Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane having had to kick his heels on the sidelines since late August.
The Liverpudlian got a red card for a reckless challenge during the 2-0 League Cup win over Leeds.
He got a three-match ban which took effect either side of the international ban.
It was hopefully a lesson learned for Ledson in the early weeks of his Preston career.
“After Saturday’s game I said to the lads that it felt good to be a footballer again,” said Ledson, who will be in the squad for the League Cup clash with Middlesbrough at Deepdale on Tuesday night.
“It was more than three weeks out with how the games fell and that was quite tough to take.
“To come back at Bramall Lane, a top place to play, was brilliant.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the result we wanted but being back on the pitch was a big relief.
“Earlier in the season Paul Gallagher got the same length of ban as myself but we had three games in a week and that was him done.”
Ledson, 21, knows he has to watch his step when it comes to putting in a tackle.
Making challenges is a big part of his game but when to make them is going to be key.
“You probably know me a little bit better than when I signed and I do like to tackle,” said Ledson.
“It is a decision I have to make, whether to go in for a challenge or not go in.
“At Leeds I shouldn’t have gone in, I know that now.
“Their lad jumped out of the way which made it look a bit worse than it was.
“I’m a young lad and I’m eager, I just want to impress.
“I have learned from it, hopefully it won’t happen again.
“In this day and age there are not many people like myself, Ben Pearson and Darnell Fisher who want to put in a tackle.
“Maybe people want to try and nick it around you, that is something I have to learn to deal with.”
Ledson went straight back into the side at Sheffield United, his return helping to ease a shortage of holding midfielders.
It was a tough afternoon for PNE, with them falling 2-0 behind before scoring twice in two minutes in the closing stages to pull level.
But there was a sting in the tail as the home side got an 87th-minute winner.
Ledson felt the stage of the contest in the build-up to the two goals was something to draw confidence from, even if the result was a real kick in the teeth.
He had a hand in Preston’s second goal, threading a pass to wing-back Andrew Hughes who in turn picked out Daniel Johnson with a low cross into the box.
Said Ledson: “It was a tough game, Sheffield United are a good side.
“But when we rolled up our sleeves and got going, we gave it to them.
“We got the ball, started to play forward and made some good forward runs.
“I thought the goals we scored were brilliant, really good team goals with good passing and great crosses into the box.
“After that we probably lacked game management by not killing the match off.
“But at 2-2 we looked like the side who could push on and win, so there was that mentality to push forward.
“Unfortunately they got down our right-hand side and if you watch the goal back, the ball went past three of our lads by inches.
“That is how it is at the moment, the rub of the green is not going for us.
“It is up to us to change that and get going with some good results.”
Next up for North End is Boro’s visit to Deepdale in the third round of the League Cup.
A break it might be from the struggles of the league but again it is Championship opposition – the Teessiders are second in the division.
Ledson said: “It will be a tough one, it is a top side from our division.
“They might make a few changes but they’ve got a strong squad.
“We are looking to win it because a cup run can give you plenty of confidence.
“As a team, we want to test ourselves against the best.
“We know what they are going to be all about, Boro are physical and all their back five will be at least 6ft 2in.
“I would think Jordan Hugill will play. I don’t know him but the lads speak very highly of him and he was a popular member of the group from what I have heard.
“Hopefully we can stop them and get the win to take us into the next round.
“We’ll give it everything, like we do in any match we play.
“The fans can play their part, we need them on our side.”