STUART O’KEEFE has declared himself ready to drive Pompey into the League One play-offs.
The on-loan midfielder announced his injury return on Saturday following three-and-a-half months on the sidelines.
That was my first game since December and dusted the cobwebs off, testing the injuryStuart O’Keefe
His entrance from the bench for the final 30 minutes of the 3-3 draw at Rochdale represented a timely comeback for the Blues.
Anton Walkes collected a hamstring injury in stoppage time, with Pompey still assessing the extent of damage.
However, O’Keefe’s availability with five matches remaining delivers a potential midfield replacement to Kenny Jackett.
And the 27-year-old is relishing the opportunity to contribute towards Pompey’s late-season surge.
He said: ‘I think I’m ready to start. It’s down to the manager, while the boys are on a good run, so we will see.
‘Saturday was a good milestone for me. To come on and test myself was good, it was end-to-end and a great one to come into.
‘That was my first game since December and dusted the cobwebs off, testing the injury.
‘I had to make sure I was fully fit and into the swing of things because it’s an unforgiving month which could be really important for Pompey.
‘It has been a long time coming, finally I’ve made a contribution and have a feel of football again. Injury is part of football, so it’s great to be among it again after such a long time out.
‘I returned to training in March and was back in the squad for the Easter weekend. That was a week or two ahead of schedule, which was always what I wanted to do.
‘I haven’t played any reserve games, but we had an in-house match against a few of the boys not playing and some younger lads, just to get me ticking over.
‘Obviously there is nothing like a match scenario, so to come on and get 30 minutes at Rochdale was good and something ticked off.
‘I have to make sure I am right and that appearance proves I am there or thereabouts – now I want to kick on in the last month.’
O’Keefe had been sidelined since mid-December following separate groin injuries sustained against Bury.
Pompey’s central midfield options were further weakened by Danny Rose breaking his leg two weeks later.
It subsequently developed into a problem position for Jackett, who was unable to capture a replacement in the January transfer window.
Regardless, the Blues stand one point from fifth spot and are play-off contenders.
O’Keefe added: ‘I think we can come on strongly.
‘We’ve fallen victim to injuries and suspensions this year, but there is still every chance to make the play-offs.
‘With a full-strength squad, bar Danny Rose, going into the last month we need to be really positive about it and give it a right good go and see where we end up.
‘I feel good and am available for Plymouth.’