Harrogate Town's Stephen Dooley takes another big step on his journey back from injury 'hell'
The 32-year-old midfielder spent almost a year on the sidelines with complex injury problems, prior to making his competitive comeback in last month’s EFL Trophy defeat to Accrington Stanley.
And the former Rochdale man, who missed the vast majority of last season due to suffering with a hernia issue and a severe inflammatory pelvic condition at the same time, got more minutes under his belt as the Sulphurites eased to a 5-1 first-round victory on Saturday.
Dooley was introduced as a 79th-minute substitute for Levi Sutton and looked very much at home in the engine room despite his lack of game-time.
He provided the assist for Town’s final goal of the afternoon, placing a left-wing corner onto the head of Matty Foulds to leave Weaver impressed by his efforts.
“I thought he was fantastic and we made a point of that in the changing room after the game,” the Harrogate chief said.
“Everybody is overjoyed for Dools because he has been to hell and back with his injuries and training on his own.
"Obviously he was still coming into the club, but you feel isolated as an injured player. You can be quite low at times, which is understandable, but he was overjoyed at playing a part on Saturday.
“He’s a fantastic footballer, it’s good to get another good quality player back fit and raring to go for some more action.”
A summer 2022 signing from Rochdale, Dooley began his first term as a Harrogate player as a regular starter, making seven League Two appearances and playing one League Cup game before his season was ended in mid-October.
"There was a time when I wasn’t quite sure if I would get back out there,” the player himself admitted in a recent interview with the club.
"Now, a year later, to be back involved, it feels great. I’m in a much better place now.”
Dooley will be hoping to be involved once again when Town return to League Two this action, on the road at Walsall, 3pm kick-off.