It’s been a frustrating 11 months on the sidelines for Jamie McCombe, but the centre-back is finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of his recovery.
Easter Monday saw 31-year-old McCombe come on in the final few moments of their 0-0 draw with Millwall to sure up ten-man Rovers following Abdoulaye Meite’s red card.
And even though it was only a few minutes, that precious game-time had been something McCombe craved all season following his lengthy rehabilitation to repair a stress fracture in his back.
“I felt good. It was just nice to be back playing, being fully fit and getting involved,” said the former Bristol City man.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t need to [be put on] because I hoped we’d be winning!
“But then we got a man sent off and we were under the cosh. The lads defended really well.
“As they were throwing men forward, I was put on to head the ball out of the box and to consolidate and keep that clean sheet.”
On his injury he went on: “It’s been really frustrating. It’s been 11-and-a-half months since my last game so when you break it down, you think ‘Wow, that’s the season almost gone’.”
McCombe’s last involvement in a Rovers shirt was during their dramatic final day victory at Brentford where James Coppinger’s injury-time strike propelled Doncaster into the Championship.
And, as has been well documented, McCombe gave away the penalty which led to Marcello Trotta hitting the bar before the incredible match-winning breakaway.
The defender, who netted 35 appearances in all competitions for Rovers last season, admitted he had been playing through the pain barrier during their promotion campaign.
“I could hardly run,” he said.
“I was playing at 75 per cent. I was managing to cope and get through it but there’s only so long you can persevere and keep doing that.
“I had it last season and we were going through promotion but I wanted to play through it because I wanted us to get up.
“October was when it got diagnosed as a stress fracture. I had two months out and came back and I was still getting the same pain.
“In my mind I knew that I had it but I thought ‘Get through the season, get promoted and hopefully get a good rest in the summer,’ which I did. But even when I came back after the summer the fracture was still there.”
The father-of-two, who had to wear a back brace for three months during his recovery, added: “I couldn’t do much work around the house which was alright actually!
“It’s been a long, long, long road. But the main thing is I’m back, fully fit now and I can actually be better than I was before.”