A lengthy trip to Plymouth for a U23s game helped David Wheeler prepare for his chance to make a scoring return to the MK Dons starting line-up against Macclesfield on Saturday.
With Dons chasing their fifth win in a row, a strong team was sent to Devon on Tuesday for the Development League game. Wheeler, one of the more experienced heads in the squad, left with a hat-trick to his name, earning his spot in Saturday's game by brute force.
Dons struggled to make an impact in the opening 45 minutes, falling behind to Nathan Cameron's goal on 19 minutes. But Wheeler gave the team-talks in both dressing rooms a different feel when he flicked Conor McGrandles' corner home four minutes before the break to equalise.
In the second period, Dons and in particular Wheeler took control as the visitors went on to claim the 3-1 win, climbing into third spot in League 2.
Though he could not add to his goal tally, forcing Macclesfield keeper Kieran O'Hara into three excellent saves in barely two minutes, Wheeler said his showing at Moss Rose highlighted the importance of taking the U23s game seriously.
He said: "I'm really chuffed, it's always nice to score isn't it! To win and keep up the momentum is really positive. With the all the lads who aren't playing regularly, it's important to stay focused because you can come in at any point and you have to perform.
"I think it's easy when you're doing a lot of travelling to a game which doesn't have anything riding on it, to switch off. But it can help with confidence and fitness and helps you prepare for first team games."
His performance at Macclesfield also drew praise from manager Paul Tisdale, who said: "It was a really good goal, but the thing that stood out about his performance was his energy, and power. I wouldn't have wanted to play against him and Kieran today. They made life difficult, Chuks played his part, Jake Hesketh came on and added immediately also.
"But David really put the back four under pressure and that's the first job of the centre forward in these conditions. He did not give them an easy game."
With another long trip to Morecambe on Tuesday, Wheeler will have racked up in excess of 1,100 miles on the coach.
"I will be well travelled without seeing anything other than football grounds!" he added. "You have to be sensible and take care of yourself when you travel that much, it takes it's toll. Getting the win makes it that much nicer. It can be a very draining time on the coach."