SAMMIE Szmodics is determined to “push on” after making his long-awaited first start since returning from injury.

The midfielder had been limited to substitute appearances after having surgery on the inside of his right ankle in January.

However, an injury to Owen Garvan meant he was thrown in from the start in Tuesday’s home match against Mansfield Town.

And after managing 81 minutes, he hopes to stay heavily involved and be a key figure in the club’s quest for a play-off spot.

“I’d had 45 minutes with the reserves and then 45 against Portsmouth (last Saturday) and the plan wasn’t for me to start as I’ve only just come back,” said Szmodics.

“But there was the injury for Garvs (Owen Garvan) and I got the call to say I was starting.

“The call was to get through as much as I could and I got through pretty much the whole game.

“In the Portsmouth game I played through and by half-time I was shattered so the aim was to get through another 45, but I spoke to the fitness coach at half-time and I felt fine.

“It’s easier when you’re attacking, but we were on the back foot a bit more in the second half and the game didn’t really suit me.

“However, I was pleased to get through about 80 minutes and hopefully I can push on.

“I’ve done a bit of recovery since and hopefully everyone will be fresh for Saturday.”

U’s boss John McGreal says he is trying to manage Szmodics’ fitness - as well as other fit-again players including Drey Wright (hernia).

And he has sung the praises of both for making such a positive impact on their return.

“It’s about managing players like Sammie,” said McGreal.

“You try stopping him at the moment, though!

“His performance was terrific the other night and he’s making up for lost time, after missing four months through injury.

“Credit to him, because he’s come back and he’s as fit as he can be.

“He’s looked after himself while he’s been out.

“It’s the same with Drey, who has adapted to his new role and done particularly well, having come back so quickly from his injury.

“These players all deserve a lot of credit.”

McGreal is waiting on the fitness of Richard Brindley, ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Gresty Road.

The defender has not trained properly for nearly three weeks due to a calf injury.

However, there is good news regarding long-term injury victim Tom Eastman.

The centre-half, who has been sidelined after ankle surgery, is jogging again and ready to start light training.

“I don’t want to push him or put any timescale on his return,” said McGreal.

“I just want him to come back when he’s ready – if he’s ready.”