Popular Mansfield Town midfielder Alex MacDonald paid tribute to the “magnificent” Stags fans — and revealed his tough battle for fitness — after returning from a five-month injury lay-off with a goal.
MacDonald capped off Mansfield’s 4-2 home win over Cheltenham Town with a late strike in his second substitute’s appearance since returning to action.
“The goal meant the world to me,” said MacDonald, who scored after Will Atkinson had restored the Stags’ lead. They had taken a 2-0 half-time advantage through a CJ Hamilton double before Cheltenham levelled around the hour.
“To be out in front of our home fans, who are magnificent and have been since the day I walked in... hearing them sing my name after I’d scored was a proud moment.”
MacDonald also appreciated the support and reaction of his team-mates to his special goal.
“The players have seen bits and pieces of how hard it’s been for me personally,” he said.
“I’m the kind of character who needs to be involved in football, so when that got taken away from me it hurt me.
“When we were celebrating I tried to keep the boys around me for as long as I could. It was nice to hear the lads say some things to me.
“It was just about how pleased and happy they were for me, saying that all that hard work has paid off. I respect them and thank them for that.”
Talking about his battle for fitness he added: “It’s been a long, hard slog since being injured.
“When you’re in the gym on your own, you don’t realise how hard it is. Players have told me in the past about how lonely it can be when you’re injured and how much you don’t feel part of it.
“I hope that I don’t have to experience that again. I want to keep myself fit and play in big games like that; I want to contribute towards the team because it’s something I feel I can do.
“It has been hard — it must be over five months since I’ve really played in the first team and over the last couple of weeks it’s been hard sitting there and watching.
“But I realise the task I’ve got trying to get back in this team. It is a team that’s playing very well at the top of the division and I’m realistic to know I won’t just walk back into it.”