Second year Academy midfielder Kieran McKenna received a huge boost last Monday when he was included in the reserve squad for the encounter with Southampton after three months out through injury.
Kieran's inactivity was due to an ankle problem that resulted in him being on crutches for a month after the injury did heal. It was a frustrating time for the Northern Ireland under-18 international who was naturally delighted to be drafted straight back into the reserve team fold on his return.
"The last few months have been a bit of a nightmare for me because I've had an ankle injury," he reported. "I am just getting back into it now, it is good to be back and hopefully it is behind me.
"It started out as quite a small problem that got a bit worse and then stayed the same. I rested it and didn't seem to make any progress so the weight was taken off it for a month as well and I was on crutches that seemed to do the job.
"I was glad to be back in the reserves because I only really started training last Monday and played for the under-19s at the weekend against Southampton and did quite well. So I am delighted to get straight back in and getting on the pitch is the next target."
Meanwhile, Kieran has withdrawn from an international training camp in order to further his fitness. The camp is part of the early preparations for the European under-19 Championships that are to be held in Northern Ireland next season.
"They are starting us early but, after talking to Patsy and the physio, we feel it is best that I stay and work on my fitness here.
"A lot of the camp is about getting the squad together as the training is not very intense. They are quite fun and relaxed, you get together with boys from your own country."
It is interesting times for Northern Irish football with new manager Lawrie Sanchez coming in and his team scoring a goal against Norway after a record barren spell.
"Wasn't that wonderful!" he laughed. "Hopefully we have turned the corner and it is good to have got over that period.
"I'll score the next one!"