Defender Josh Lelan says he is ‘relishing the opportunity’ to show what he can do over the final few games of the season as he tries to win himself a new Cobblers deal.
Out of contract in the summer, Lelan had become something of a forgotten man at Sixfields as he found his pathway to the first team blocked by the outstanding form of fellow right-back Brendan Moloney.
The Irishman has been so good since returning to action from a knee injury, that Lelan hadn’t featured for the first team since the 2-0 win over Yeovil back on November 28.
The former Derby County youngster finally got a belated chance to remind manager Chris Wilder what he is all about when he was handed a rare start against Crawley Town last week, with Moloney sidelined with a knee problem.
Lelan performed well in the 2-1 win over Crawley, and kept his place for the weekend draw at Yeovil Town, where he again more than held his own.
It has been an unexpected chance to shine for the 21-year-old, who is now hoping he gets more chances to play in the final two games of the season against Luton Town and Portsmouth.
“I have had to be patient, as the team has been doing really well with the run we have been on, but it has been brilliant to get back in and I am relishing the opportunity,” said Lelan, who started the first five games of the season, until a red card in the 2-0 defeat to Plymouth Argyle saw him drop out of the team, and then out of favour as first loan signing Darnell Furlong and then Moloney kept him sidelined.
“It has been the best part of five or six months without playing, which has been frustrating, and it has been brilliant to be part of the season, but I would have wanted to have played a more integral role.
“But I have been a part of it, and I am looking forward to the next few games to try and prove a point and show what I have still got.”
So how did it feel when he was told he was taking to the pitch against Crawley?
“It was exciting, and I was looking to go and enjoy it,” said Lelan. “I have been looking for the opportunity for a while now, and I am going to try and take the opportunity in the next couple of games and see how it goes.
“I have felt comfortable, and fitness wise I have felt good, I have felt fit, and I am just enjoying playing football again.”
Lelan will have to wait on the fitness of Moloney to see if he is handed any more opportunities this term, and although he doesn’t wish ill fortune on any other player, the youngster is hoping he can keep his place.
He wants to stay in the team and perform well to try and prove to Wilder that he is worth the offer of another contract this summer.
“We will have to see. I will hopefully get to play in these last couple of games and we will see where it goes from there,” said Lelan, when asked about the chances of being offered a new deal.
“It is a huge boost for me to get playing, but obviously Brendan has played very well since he has come back from injury midway through the season.
“I don’t wish badly on anybody, but it is a boost for me to get to play and it is one of those things that happens in football. You have to be ready to take your opportunity.”
Whatever happens, whether Lelan keeps his place in the starting 11 or ends up on the bench, he is looking forward to enjoying the Cobblers’ title party at Sixfields on Saturday.
“I can’t wait, and it should be a real party atmosphere,” said Lelan, who has now made 11 appearances for Town this season.
“We still have to get the job done, but we are going to relish the occasion.”