If Town’s Wembley win seems like yesterday to some Shaymen supporters, then it must have felt like a lifetime ago to Matty Brown as he returned to first team action for the first time since last May.
Brown’s unexpected start at Altrincham was his first Halifax appearance since starting in their historic 1-0 win over Grimsby in the FA Trophy final.
Brown’s injury problems had started before then when he sustained ankle ligament damage in the 4-2 win at Nantwich in the FA Trophy semi-final, first-leg last March.
But after working his way back to fitness, he then sustained a growth on his heel which also required surgery.
“It was brilliant to be back,” said the centre-back. “On a personal level, eight months out has been a long road. I’ve had two operations, a lot of rehab, but getting the three points and a clean sheet makes it all worth it. It’s been a hard trip for me, but I’m back now.
“We didn’t play great but the three points were massive. The fact that we can come away from home, not play well, but keep battling was great. Even though I’ve not been involved all season, I’ve always said the team spirit here is brilliant.
“We’re all on the same page, we all fight the same battle and that gets us through games. We’d go through a wall for each other.”
Brown played with pain-killing injections at Wembley rather than opting to miss the game and undergo an operation, but insists he doesn’t regret that decision.
“I wouldn’t have expected to have been out so long after that,” he said. “I played through a lot of pain at Wembley. People have said if I hadn’t played at Wembley, would I have been back quicker? Possibly yeah, but life’s about ifs, buts and maybes. I’ve played at Wembley and we’ve won at Wembley for the club. Now I’m back I wouldn’t change it but I have missed a lot of football, it’s been a tough road, but I’m lucky that I’m mentally strong.
“It’s taken a lot of mental strength to get through it. All the lads have been behind me the whole way, they’ve all been supportive, the gaffer’s been great with me. I’ve had a lot of help from St George’s Park and I’ve just done the right things off the pitch.”
Prior to Saturday’s match, Brown’s previous league appearance for Halifax was in another game against Altrincham in March last year.
“I think it was Connor Hughes who got the goal and we won 1-0,” Brown recalled. I was thinking about that in the warm-up.
“It makes you appreciate playing more when you’ve been out for so long. You watch the games and you want to support the lads, which I’ll always do. I’ve been to every single game, home and away, besides the overnight trips. It’s important we get this club back where it belongs, not just into the league above but we want to get in the Football League, and we’re all on the same page.
“We need to apply ourselves a lot better than we did last week, but I’m sure if we do that we can get the three points on Saturday.”
Asked if he was the same player he was last season, Brown replied: “Not yet. I don’t care if you’re me or Lionel Messi, it’s going to take anyone a few games to get yourself sharp. But I thought I’d be a lot rustier than I was. I felt I did OK, but I know I’ve got a lot more to offer. I’ll take that as a starting point though.
“I’ve been working hard in the past few weeks to get myself match-fit. It was unfortunate circumstances that I came in - Nathan Hotte and Scott Garner have been playing well together. But my chance came and we kept a clean sheet so I can’t think of a better way for it to have gone.
“Obviously I’d rather forget about the first 10 minutes! I thought it could have been a nightmare but it happens and you’ve got to pick yourself up and not let it bog you down.
“They didn’t have many chances in the rest of the game. Obviously Sam (Johnson) has got me out of jail so I’ll be buying him a pint for that!
“The gaffer wasn’t happy with our performance but the main thing was the three points. But if we can come away from home, not play well but get the three points, I’ll take that all day long.”