Skipper Mills is closing in on playing return for Cobblers
Cobblers skipper Joseph Mills is closing in on a return to full fitness.
The left-back has been out of action since fracturing his right ankle in the 1-1 draw at Crawley Town at the end of August, but is now keeping his fingers crossed that he will be back and available before the end of January.
In recent weeks, Mills has returned to running on the grass and making the first serious steps towards returning to training with the first team, but admits that he is still some way off being ready to play competitive football again.
"It is going well, and I have managed to step things up a bit," said the 32-year-old.
"I am back out on the grass again now which is always nice, it is always good to put a pair of boots on.
"I have fortunately been able to join in with the team on warm-ups and a bit of boxes, which is always one of the best bits of training, so it is going well and I am on track for hopefully what I was expecting."
So, when is the former Forest Green Rovers man hoping to be back in a Cobblers shirt again?
"It is hard to put a timeframe on things," said Mills.
"What I have found is, when you are out for so long and you have had to keep a part of your body so immobile for so long, when you start coming back it is not only that which can catch you out.
"It is kind of other parts of your body that are maybe over-compensating, so you might tweak a calf muscle or your hamstring or something like that.
"So it is really hard to put a specific timeframe on it, but if I can be back some time in January then that is good going."
The fact that Mills is taking part in some training again means the end to his injury woes are tantalisingly close, but he admits he has to stay calm and listen to the experts!
"Putting boots on again is such a strange feeling when you have been in trainers for so long," said the Town captain.
"Putting the boots on and then just doing a few laps with the boys and going through your stretches and stuff, you are thinking 'I could join in the whole session here'.
"But luckily the fitness coach is always there and the physio is always there to pull on the reins and make sure you are not over-stressing your body.
"It is one of those where I am really happy to be out there with the team, but I know I am not near the level I need to be to be able to do a full training session and then be available for selection for games."
Mills has had to look on pretty helpless over the past few weeks as manager Jon Brady's defensive options have been severely stretched.
Along with Mills, Sid Nelson is also out long-term, while both Michael Harriman and Dom Revan are both also sidelined.
At the weekend Jon Guthrie was also missing as he was away due to his wife being in labour, meaning that 18-year-old Max Dyche was handed a first Sixfields start for his home town club, stepping into the central defensive role superbly.
Mills admits it is frustrating to see the squad being stretched to much, but knows he simply can't afford to try and rush back from his own injury issues.
"I have always been a player, where if I can help the team then I will always want to do that," said the Swindon-born defender.
"In the past couple of months the lads have been doing really well and it has been quite easy to sit back and watch the results, and watch the performances.
"But there has been a couple more injuries, and then Jon was away because his partner was giving birth, and it is difficult to pull yourself in because you want to be involved in everything.
"You want to be involved in the game, be involved in the big moments, but I know at the same time that if I rush myself back then I am only putting myself in harm's way, to potentially put myself out for a longer period of time.
"I think the gaffer doesn't want that to happen, and I certainly don't, I want to be back for the whole rest of the season and the important run-in which is to come."