His only kicks of the ball may have been in the pre-match warm-up, but the return of Conor McAleny on Boxing Day was one of Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler’s best Christmas presents.
Striker McAleny was an unused substitute in the 2-1 win at Oldham, but as this is his third comeback from a niggling ankle injury picked up at the start of the season, it’s no surprise Town are handling him with care.
The summer signing from Everton suffered the knock at Northampton in August, but after comebacks against Portsmouth the following month and Rochdale in October proved false dawns, McAleny is now back, having spent another two months on the treatment table.
His return allowed Rosler to revert to the 4-3-3 system he started the season with.
And after two of those front three, Ash Hunter and Devante Cole, hit the net at Boundary Park, Rosler welcomed the renewed competition up top.
McAleny is expected to return to match action either at Bury on Saturday or against Bradford on New Year’s Day.
And despite his non-playing role against Oldham, Rosler said: “Conor was massive.
“He understood that the game was so intense and I was not sure (about selecting him) because he has not played.
“But he is now recovered and there will be many opportunities in the next weeks. I am happy to have him.
“He was always in my mind. When you have options like that, it also inspires the players who are starting because they know they have to go flat out because there are good players on the bench.
“Wes Burns got better in the second half. He really got us higher up the pitch with his runs.
“Ash Hunter got involved and Devante Cole was very good, not just with his goal but also in his all-round play.
“When you work like that, with the qualities we have there is a high possibility you will be rewarded in the end.”
McAleny was not the only injury victim involved at Oldham, where Bobby Grant (knee) gave the team a pre-match talk as he builds up to his own return.
And that is just the sort of team spirit Rosler says he prides himself on.
He said: “It is all about the group and everyone who is on that bus participating.
“When I see Bobby Grant training on Boxing Day morning and driving over to Oldham to give the lads a pep talk, that is what I mean (when I say) we are a team.
“Whether you are starting or you are on the bench or you are not in the squad, we are a team. As long as we are getting that (feeling) consistently coming back to us, then we will be fine.
And Rosler was pleased Town ended a run of just one win in 12 League One games this week.
He said: “I think everybody is relieved we got that monkey off our back.
“Our character has been tested in the last couple of months and the Oldham game was a clear sign of how much life and spirit is in our team.”