TUESDAY’S player of the match Luca Connell has made a miraculous recovery from a mystery illness in recent weeks – and head coach Neill Collins can’t praise the Irish midfielder enough.
The 22-year-old made his return to the squad in the club’s first round FA Cup replay against seventh-tier Horsham last month, after he was struck down with an illness which kept him out of action for 158 days.
His performance against Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday earned him the player of the match accolade and he ran his blood to water before he was taken off in the 74th minute.
Collins told the Chronicle: “Luca has had a fantastic comeback. To play almost 90 minutes on Saturday and that tonight (against Wycombe) – I think he’s been excellent with the intensity he brings.
“But I’m also mindful we need to keep him fit.
“He looked like he was just about showing the effects – but to play like he did, wow.
“All he’s played against is Horsham and Bradford in the Football League Trophy so credit to him. But bringing someone like Adam Phillips off the bench is great.”
Collins admits he didn’t expect him to return so quickly – but thinks his return will impact everyone in the squad in a positive way.
“He wasn’t always going to play (on Tuesday night) but I felt watching him on Saturday, and speaking to him that I think he would have killed me had I not given him that opportunity again,” he added.
“Jon Russell and others will be desperate for the opportunity but Luca has brought back that little bit of intensity that others can feed off.”
“Having Luca back in the team is a big bonus,” added Sam Cosgrove.
“I’ve not seen loads of Luca myself coming in late this season, but from what I’ve seen of him he’s a class player. He was pulling the strings so the more we can get him involved the better.
“You notice him around the training ground, those scousers are hard to miss.
“Luca is a great lad, a great character to have around.
“But that epitomises the squad, there are no bad characters – we all get along really well.
“For sure, he’s one that pushes us and keeps the standards high.”