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11 January 2017

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The town striker netted his first goal of the season last night

Fully fit again striker Craig Mackail-Smith is planning on breaking into the first team after what he described a “difficult” season so far.

Macca broke his leg last March against Plymouth, before returning to full fitness in November, appearing in a number of development squad fixtures. 

He scored his first senior goal since his return, smashing in from the penalty spot against Chesterfield after being brought down by Laurence Maguire last night in the Checkatrade Trophy, with the feeling of scoring something the striker has sorely missed, so much so he decided he was taking the spot kick even though he wasn’t first choice!

He said: “­I knew there was a list of people who were going to take them, I don’t think I was on it! 

“As soon as I went through and he brought me down, I was taking it.

“I wanted to get the ball in the back of the net and get that feeling again and just get on a run.

“It’s nice [to score], it’s been a long time! It’s been tough but even if it’s from the penalty spot, it’s nice to see it hit the back of the net and just gives me a bit of confidence moving forward now.”

The 32-year-old has been slightly unfortunate not to feature in the regular starting XI recently, having been waiting on the wings, ready to take his chance.

“It has been really difficult, as I came back and played a few games, then there wasn’t a game for a while, I couldn’t get in the team and then I picked up a little knock,” Mackail-Smith continued. “It’s been on going and I have been fit for a while now and obviously this is my chance to show the gaffer that I am getting stronger and I am getting fitter. 

“I just need to play those games to get that sharpness and improve more. So hopefully this will be the start of a run.”

Whilst being frustrated, the former Scotland international is also aware he is coming up against some of the best strikers League Two has to offer.

With Danny Hylton already on 14 goals for the season and Jack Marriott’s brace last night taking him up to eight for the term, Mackail-Smith has some strong competition if he wants to be one of the starting strikers on a Saturday.

Macca said: “We have got fantastic finishers. Obviously Hylts is flying, Isaac and Jack are outstanding, it’s tough. 

“You have got to be on your top game and take your chances when they come. It’s obviously great for Jack and myself to take the chances, Isaac did as well when he came on. 

“So it gives all the boys confidence up front, knowing that when we do get chances we can take them.”

The Checkatrade Trophy has seen the Hatters take on higher placed opposition in every single fixture, with Jones’ side putting Gillingham, West Brom, Swindon and now the Spireites to the sword in their quest for silverware.

Town were fined for the sides they picked up in the group stages, as the teams didn’t meet the quota of regular starters the league requires.

However, the success of the young side has really impressed Mackail-Smith throughout all the matches, as he said: “I think the boys who aren’t in the first 11 on a Saturday have taken it brilliantly and they have gone out and shown the gaffer what they are capable of. 

“It gives him great confidence in terms of taking the players and putting them in the first squad.

“We have beaten a lot of teams that are divisions above us, it gives us the confidence that if we need to step in on Saturday they can do it.

“They [the younger players] have equipped themselves fantastically. We kept a clean sheet, we didn’t really look troubled throughout the whole game.

“It’s hard to get into the first 11 at the moment because there are some experienced players in front of them and if they keep taking this competition seriously and working really hard, they have got the opportunity in three games time if it happens, to play at Wembley, which is amazing.”

If you are a Hatters Player subscriber, you can watch Craig’s full post-match interview by clicking here.

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