Fleet midfielder Jack Payne saw his first action since September after featuring as a substitute in the defeat to Chester and staked an immediate claim for a shirt for the remaining 18 games of the season. The 26-year-old has sat out a third of the season with a knee injury but is determined to play his part in what’s left of 2017/18 and fulfil the expectations around his signing for the club.
“I played the first nine games and had to stop. It is frustrating,” Payne told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “There’s 18 league games left so I’m hoping I can feature in most of them and repay the club for bringing me in. We knew we couldn’t rush it, I’d seen the specialist about three times and after the second time he told me it was going to be a longer lay-off so we had to take it on the chin and not rush it. The worst thing we could have done was come back too early and then have another setback.”
Payne looked bright in the 26 minutes in which he featured and he reported no ill-effects following the runout. “I feel good. I’ve trained for a little while and I felt I needed some more minutes,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was sluggish, it was good to get back on the ball and get a feel for it again.”
His return was marred by a miserable afternoon for the team, losing to Chester’s solitary goal, and Payne knows that level of performance will need to be improved upon. “On that performance today, we can’t say we’re going to go challenging for the play-offs,” he said. “But we know what we’ve got in the group and we know where the club wants to be so the players need to stand up and take that forward.
“It was not the result we wanted but for me it was good to get some minutes under my belt. When you give a team a leg up that are down the bottom and scrapping for their lives, it’s hard, and we did that today, gave them a scrappy goal which never should have been going in. And then it becomes hard, they just sit in and sit in and that’s it, if you can’t break them down. We had all the ball today but we just weren’t good enough at breaking them down and didn’t have loads of clear-cut chances. That backfired on us.
“It’ll be a good game on Tuesday night and a good atmosphere. We need to go and get three points so that’s all we can be aiming for. We need to stand up and be counted, every one of us that’s in this squad and whoever gets the shirt on Tuesday needs to stand up and show the gaffer why he should be playing and why he wants to stay in the team.”
Listen to the full interview below.