Sleepless nights and fears for his sight - McGrandles makes his Dons return

McGrandles is wearing a protective mask until further notice
McGrandles is wearing a protective mask until further notice

He was booed off the field by the Oldham fans, lying stricken on a stretcher having just fractured his cheekbone and eye socket in stoppage time. Fourteen weeks later, Conor McGrandles made his return to the football pitch.

The 23-year-old required several operations to fix the broken bones, but it was fear for his eye, his vision and his confidence which has required more rehabilitation than the injuries themselves.

Conor McGrandles made his return on Tuesday night

Conor McGrandles made his return on Tuesday night

McGrandles' hour against Brighton U21s on Tuesday night may not have been game changing, but it was of huge significance for the Scot.

"It has been really bad - the worst I've ever had," he said. "Mentally, it was really tough. I could do everything, run and jump but it was the mental side, having to wait, not being able to do the physical stuff. I'm glad it's all over.

"Basically, I broke my eye-socket and my cheekbone. My eye was affected too, it couldn't move. We had to wait until I had full movement in my eye again. The bones healed pretty quickly but we had to wait for my eye to heal. The physios were brilliant with me, they helped me get through a lot and made it a lot easier than it could have been. I'm indebted to them and that I'm here and fully fit.

"At times I did wonder whether it would go back to how it was, would I be able to play again, will I do as well as I had before. It was a scary time, and I was kept up at night worrying about it. But I'm really happy with the way it has worked out and how quick it has done."

McGrandles was substituted after 65 minutes against Brighton

McGrandles was substituted after 65 minutes against Brighton

Paul Tisdale hailed McGrandles as one of his best players during pre-season, prior to his injury on the opening day of the season. And he was delighted to see McGrandles return to the fold.

"It was great to have him back, to was a big success of the night. He had to come off on the hour – he hasn't played even a reserve game and has only been training for a couple of weeks.

"He did really well, so I'm chuffed for him and Simon Crampton and the medical team, not just physically but psychologically because he has suffered a lot. He's no-where near match fit but he's such a good footballer, I just want to get him back out on the pitch."

McGrandles was accused of time-wasting and faking his injury in unsavoury scenes at Boundary Park, but his swollen eye was evidence enough he most certainly was not. A night in hospital followed, before operations on his fractures during the course of the next few weeks.

McGrandles back on the bench

McGrandles back on the bench

Confidence still plays a huge part in his recovery though. Sporting a protective mask, McGrandles says it will be down to him to decide when to take it off.

He said: "It's just as long as I'm comfortable. If I feel comfortable playing without it, I'm fine to take it off. I don't think it will be like Petr Cech!

"It is brilliant to be fair. It doesn't really affect how I play. I can see normally, it took a bit of getting used to but it's completely fine now."