His return from injury was spoiled by an injury-time screamer from Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane.
But, as the dust settled on Sheffield United’s battling point in their South Yorkshire derby at Oakwell, John Brayford reflected on his long road to recovery from a serious knee injury and declared: It’s good to be back.
“It’s been tricky,” admitted the defender, after making his first appearance since suffering ligament damage in the play-off semi-finals back in May.
“But it’s one of those things you just have to deal with in life, I guess.
“People go through tricky stages in their lives all the time and it’s just been about working hard, really.
“It does make it worthwhile to get out there on the pitch again, although it didn’t seem like it at the time because we were all incredibly deflated when Barnsley equalised.
“But I enjoyed it; to get out there again, in front of those fans, was good. It would have been nice to do it with a win, but it wasn’t to be - it was unbelievably frustrating to concede.”
Brayford, in a recent interview with United’s matchday programme, insists he’d have played on the opening day of the season at Gillingham if required.
The reality has been months and months in the gym, coupled with one short-lived appearance for United’s U21s and one full 90-minute game.
“The lads have helped me through it, and have made me still feel like part of the group while I’ve been out,” the former Cardiff man added.
“I’ve been upset that I haven’t been able to go out on the pitch when them; they’re my mates, and the football field is where you’re judged, not in training.
“So that’s where you want to be. The manager [Nigel Adkins] has been brilliant, too; including me with the squad, letting me travel with them. I’ve been on the sidelines supporting them but it’s not the same. I want to be out there.”
United, who haven’t won since October, are 12th in the table and Brayford added: “We need to get out of this run, but there’s no magic formula; we need to stick together.
“The fans deserve better, we know we can do better and hopefully they saw we were better at Barnsley.
“We want to put the pride back in the team.”