Having stepped up his return from injury this week, Jake Hesketh has spoken of his excitement about being involved on the pitch again.
The midfielder played 70 minutes for Southampton Under-23s on Monday night, as they were beaten 1-0 at Staplewood by Brighton, in Premier League 2.
It was Hesketh's second game back after spending six months out with a hamstring injury, having also featured in the first half of the 6-2 home win over Newcastle two weeks ago.
With Saints having to play most of the game against Brighton with ten men, following an early red card for Jan Bednarek, Hesketh felt the additional exertion required to cope with being shorthanded was no bad thing for him.
"It's a long time to be out and it's very frustrating sitting and watching everyone train and play, so to be back in and around it is really exciting," he said.
"It's really nice. Obviously, personally, I'm really happy to be back. It's been frustrating – whatever it was, six or six-and-a-half months – to be out sitting and watching, but to be back playing is really nice.
"My first game, against Newcastle, was a lot easier than this one as such, but a different challenge obviously benefited me more physically and I think I got a lot from it."
The 21-year-old added: "I feel really good. I was a bit tired towards the end of the game, but when I'm training and playing I feel myself fitness-wise. There's maybe a bit of rustiness here and there, but that's slowly going away and hopefully I'll be back fully flowing in a couple of weeks.
"The plan is to play 90 minutes next week. We're keeping it slow at the moment, so I won't be playing two games in a week right now. I'm just building myself back up and once I get the full 90 minutes and get training every day then that will come with time."