THE cut-throat nature of the A-League saw Adelaide United defender Antony Golec miss two months of competition after he suffered a corked thigh back in round five.
Nigel Boogaard was then preferred in the heart of the Reds' defence from round six onwards, leaving Golec a nervous spectator for what must have seemed like an eternity on the sidelines.
But Golec finally got his chance last Saturday night against the Newcastle Jets, with Boogaard this time struck down due to a hamstring injury.
And the 22-year-old did not let his teammates down, with him and Iain Fyfe helping his side to a clean sheet against drawcard striker Emile Heskey in the 0-0 draw.
Golec will get another opportunity to impress this Friday night against the Perth Glory at Hindmarsh Stadium.
But he knows he needs another solid performance going up against one of the A-League's greatest ever marksmen in Shane Smeltz.
Smeltz scored a brace in Perth's 2-2 draw with Sydney FC on Saturday night, sending ominous signs he is back to his best.
The New Zealand international could only manage two goals from eight games leading up to that game.
"Smeltzy is a good player. He scored two goals on the weekend and people say because he hasn't scored in a while that he's not going that well," Golec said.
"But all it took was two chances and he took them, so I think we're going to have to keep him quiet and make sure we don't give him a sniff at goal.
"It's a home game and we want to win…we didn't get the result in Newcastle and we want to stay in touch with the (first-placed) Central Coast."
Despite the challenge confronting him in the form of a re-invigorated Smeltz, Golec has plenty of motivation to help his team towards another clean sheet - keeping his spot in the starting line-up.
"It felt good to be back out there," he said.
"It's never the best missing out sitting in the stands, but I enjoyed it on Saturday.
"It could have been a better result but we came away with a clean sheet and as a defender I'm happy with that."
Meanwhile, the Reds will miss playmaker Marcelo Carrusca for at least two weeks, after the Argentine suffered a groin injury against the Jets.
The 29-year-old has been a revelation since making A-League debut earlier this season, involved in 14 matches and scoring three goals.
Adelaide coach John Kosmina has a number of options as cover, including Fabian Barbiero, Zenon Caravella and Osama Malik.