Striker on return after broken leg
The highs and lows of football were perhaps, sadly, best illustrated in the space of 600 seconds for Paul Benson in the Town’s win over Mansfield back in November.
On 19 minutes the 34-year-old had put the Hatters in front with his first goal in League 2 of the campaign. 10 minutes later he was being helped onto a stretcher and off to Accident & Emergency after an innocuous challenge when landing after an aerial duel.
The incident, which left Benson nursing a broken left leg, happened four months ago, but on Saturday Benson made his return to the Town side at Portsmouth on Saturday as a second half substitute. Now on the road to recovery he wants to get back into the side and help the Hatters to promotion.
“That will be probably be the toughest task – getting back in the team,” says Benson.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries this season but the gaffer’s built a strong squad that’s able to cope and that’s what we’re doing. Long may it continue.”
Having already missed a part of the season with injury this season, Benson was back to his best before his unfortunate injury against the Stags. But the striker is philosophical about the whole thing.
“It was one of those things, injury is part and parcel of being a footballer,” says the former Dagenham & Redbridge man. “It was unfortunate. I was challenging for a ball like I do several times in a match and as I’ve fallen my leg was planted in the ground at a strange angle and their player has landed on me.
“It was just a random, unfortunate series of events that cumulated in the injury, it could have happened in any game at any point and it could have been worse. It wasn’t a bad tackle, there was no intent or malice, it’s just something you have to accept and get on with.
“When I landed I heard a crack and I thought to myself ‘that doesn’t sound good’. But there was no immediate pain and in my head I thought the noise I heard could have been shinpad on shinpad. It wasn’t until I got up and tried to put weight on it that I knew something was wrong, I called the physio over and said ‘I think I’ve broken my leg’.”
However, Benson’s up-and-down day would continue after his trip to the hospital. The first prognosis after the X-Ray was that there was no break. But that all changed a few hours later, leaving Benson with mixed emotions.
“We were told that there was no break and then at about 8.30pm I got a call from the hospital confirming that there was a break,” explains the striker. “It turned out the junior consultant, who had told me I had all the clear, was wrong.
“After I was told there was no break I was still unsure because I was, by now, feeling a pain, and couldn’t put weight on it, so if it wasn’t broken, what was wrong with me?
“But eventually I was told of the mistake and that did put my mind at rest – even though the news was bad.
“However, as breaks go, it wasn’t on the severe level. It was nothing like what Smudger’s had to go through last season.”
Benson had led the line superbly in the first 30 minutes against Mansfield before the incident and the striker believes he was just getting back to his old self.
“I think in the away game at Exeter I felt really good,” says Benson. “Before I had been playing not being quite 100 per cent. But at Exeter I felt the best I had been, in great shape and I managed to score against Newport in the FA Cup game here.
“I was pleased to score against Mansfield, I think the most pleasing thing was the way I persevered with it. I think there were a few times where I last control of the ball but I just stayed with it. I was looking to pass the ball but couldn’t find a team-mate to pass to. I just tried to steer it in, it wasn’t a great connection but it found its way in.
“I thought I was playing well, so it was frustrating to get an injury at the time I did. However, I’ve had a long enough career in football and I’m at an age now that you can’t be disheartened.
“Injuries can always be around the corner, and either you sit there feeling sorry for yourself or you pick yourself and back yourself to bounce back from it and recover.”
And recover he has. Benson’s return to action on Saturday, however, coincided with a defeat for the Hatters at Fratton Park.
But the striker, who spent a spell on-loan at Pompey, believes the Town can still end the season in glory.
“We've got to keep our eyes on the top three, first and foremost,” Benson said. "That's still achievable so let's set our sights on that and if we fall short we fall into the Play-Offs.
“It's no good setting our sights on the Play-Offs and falling short because then we've got nothing to fall back on, so let's try to go for the top three and give it a real go.
“We've got ten games left, a lot to play for but we've certainly got to start improving individually and collectively.”