Michael Duckworth made his long-awaited return from injury as Hartlepool United reserves beat Grimsby Town 2-1.
The 23-year-old right-back has been out of action with stomach muscle trouble since the first team’s 4-0 defeat at Portsmouth on December 12.
But he made his first appearance in 14 weeks in the win over Grimsby, with Duckworth - who also recently underwent a hernia operation - completing an hour before being withdrawn from the action.
With Carl Magnay impressing at right-back in recent months, boss Craig Hignett won’t be pressed into rushing Duckworth back.
But with Pools facing eight matches in a busy April, his return from injury is a timely boost.
Connor Smith was the hero for the reserves, with the 19-year-old scoring twice in the second half as Sam Collins’ side came from behind to claim victory in the Final Third Development League game at Billingham Town’s Bedford Terrace ground.
Collins again named a strong Pools side, with Harry Worley, Scott Harrison and Dan Jones among the starters.
Worley, who is working his way back to fitness after more than three months out after ankle surgery, was subbed 10 minutes from time though after picking up an injury.
Tough-tackling midfielder Ben Pollock, who is on trial at Pools from Newcastle United, was also named in the starting line-up.
It was an open start to the game, with several chances for both sides in the opening 15 minutes but neither side managed to find a breakthrough.
Ryan Catterick, in goal for Pools, made a good block to deny Anthony Straker when the Town striker looked odds-on to score after bearing down on goal.
Pollock then went close from a corner, while Kieran Green lifted his shot wide of the post after excellent build-up play.
It was Grimsby that took the lead just past the half hour mark through Marcus Marshall, who showed a cool head to beat Catterick with a low finish.
Pools’ second string levelled through Smith midway through the second half, when he bundled home a low cross from the right flank.
And Smith struck again in the final 10 minutes to seal the victory, the forward racing clear from the halfway line before calmly rounding the Town stopper and slotting home.
Pools: Catterick, Nearney, Worley (Turnbull 80), Harrison, D Jones (Blackford 65), Duckworth (Elliott 60), Pollock, Nelson-Addy, Green (Hawkes 85), Oyenuga (Jewson 70), Smith.