ON a night of mixed emotions at Home Park, one item firmly in the plus column was the return of Antoni Sarcevic.
The midfielder made his return to action from a persistent groin injury by playing 90 minutes in Argyle’s 1-1 draw with Wycombe Wanderers. The Pilgrims took a very early lead with Freddie Ladapo’s lob in a first half they controlled, but after the break Wycombe were the aggressors, and equalised late on through Matt Bloomfield.
Sarcevic played the entire match, his first competitive game since May 1, and did so having completed only 45 minutes of a reserve game by way of preparation.
Fellow midfielder Jamie Ness was suspended for Wycombe’s visit to Home Park, leaving a hole in midfield that Sarcevic grasped.
“I had a chat with the gaffer, and he wanted me to play 45 minutes in a reserve game,” said Antoni. “I was more than happy to, as I felt I needed it. I felt really good, come out of it well, and he pulled me yesterday and said he was going to involve me. He didn’t tell me in what way.
“I saw that Nessie got sent off, and I realised there was a possibility I could be playing.
“I came in this morning, he named the team, and I was in it. I was over the moon. I was ready for it. It’s the faith the gaffer has in me, it means a lot, and I try to repay that faith on the pitch.
“I knew I was ready. I was desperate to get back in. I was excited, and buzzing I got through tonight.”
Antoni revealed that he had begun pre-season training in good shape, completing several gruelling running drills with flying colours. It was only once ball work was introduced, several days in, that he felt a reactivation of a previous issue.
“Over the summer I was seeing a specialist; so many things going on,” he said. “I did four days running, and I was flying. As soon as I struck a ball I knew straight away. It hit me hard. We went straight back square one. Rock bottom. Back to basics and taking my time.
“It’s been a big low. It hit me hard to pull out four days into pre-season. I was in a tough place. I was really, really low. Not being around the lads, going to watch them in pre-season. It was tough trying to mix with the new lads. But they were great, all the lads were with me, we’ve got a great medical team, and the gaffer has stuck by me. Now it’s all behind me. I feel really good.”
The groin injury occurred during last season, happening in February and ending what had been a scintillating run of former for the likeable midfielder. He returned two months later to make four more appearances, but fears he may have pushed himself too much to return for the season’s run-in, with Argyle chasing promotion.
He said: “I had surgery, which I needed. I had six weeks, and we were touching the play-offs. I wanted to play every game, I was itching to get back, and in hindsight it might have been too soon. I took that risk, and looking back it was a risk that put me back, but it’s gone now. I’m looking forward.”