Joe Pritchard: Accrington Stanley midfielder on his 'dream' return from long term injury

Accrington Stanley midfielder Joe Pritchard has missed much of the past two seasons due to injury
Accrington Stanley midfielder Joe Pritchard has missed much of the past two seasons due to injury

Accrington Stanley's Joe Pritchard says he could not have dreamed of a better comeback after providing a goal and assist in his first match back from a long term injury setback.

Out for almost nine months with an Achilles tear, Pritchard had a return to remember during Saturday's 4-1 League Two win over Sutton United.

The 27-year-old set up Stanley's third and tapped in a fourth in injury time.

"No-one will know how much that means to me," he told BBC Radio Lancashire.

"Just to be back in the squad, three points and a win to get us back up in the league, and a positive day with a goal and an assist from only half a game of football, you can't dream of it working any better than that - it was just amazing."

Pritchard was given the nod by manager John Coleman for his long-awaited return at half-time with the scores locked at 1-1.

Just 18 minutes into his return, Pritchard's through ball found Rosaire Longelo to make it 3-0.

He then saw an effort roll agonisingly wide before tapping in Shaun Whalley's cross to wrap up a 4-1 win, and unleashing months of frustration in his celebration.

"A lot of people will look at that and just see it as passion, but that to me means eight-and-a-half months of pure mental battles and battering myself in the gym," he said.

"So many people have helped me along the way, whether it's at home or it's here, to make that moment so special for me, so thank you to everyone that's helped."

His lengthy absence from the matchday squad meant several of Pritchard's team-mates had never seen him play in anger prior to Saturday.

It was his second long rehabilitation battle, having missed seven months of the 2021-22 season with a hamstring problem.

Now Pritchard hopes for a prolonged clean bill of health and to 'energise' his team-mates.

"No-one can put more pressure on me than I put on myself," he added.

"Every day in training I'm relentless. There's no limits to what I want to do.

"Today I've got all of the rewards from my hard work, but that's my first 45 minutes this season, so I'd like to think that nothing will stop me now and I can work as hard as I can continually to help the team."