Derby County central defender Jake Buxton happy to return to the fray against Sheffield Wednesday
JAKE Buxton says he was "surprised" and "grateful" to be handed an unexpected return to the Derby County side in the 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday.
The defender, who has been out for two months with knee ligament damage, was named on the bench for the Rams after James O'Connor was ruled out of Saturday's trip to Hillsborough due to injury.
And Buxton found himself in the starting line-up when Mark O'Brien pulled up during the warm-up.
"The plan was for me to play 45 minutes for the reserves against Crewe on Monday," said the centre-back.
"But Jimmy O'Connor got injured in the week, which allowed me to step on to the bench.
"Then it turned out Mark O'Brien's knee hadn't settled down as much as they thought.
"I found out I was playing when we came back in from the warm-up, which was about 10 minutes before kick-off.
"They were doing all they could to get Mark right but I got the nod.
"The gaffer asked me if I was all right and I said I'd give it my all.
"So all of a sudden, I'd gone from having a quiet weekend at home to playing 90 minutes.
"I'm grateful for being back in the squad and back out there with the lads.
"It was a bit of a surprise – but a nice one."
Due to his whole-hearted style of play, there was no question of Buxton easing himself back into action.
"If you're cautious and try to look after yourself, you're going to end up out there wrapped in cotton wool," said the former Burton Albion man.
"I'm not that type of player. I've still got a few little niggles but I'll go out there and see how it goes."
Wednesday's approach seemed to suit Buxton, who had only trained three times following his return from injury.
"They launched it, so I didn't get passed off the park," he said. "I just headed it and kicked it, which is bread and butter to me."
It was looking good for Derby when they opened up a two-goal lead early in the second half.
Jeff Hendrick began the scoring in the first half and Jamie Ward converted a penalty after he was fouled by Miguel Llera.
But the Owls hit straight back through Michail Antonio and Llera to earn a share of the spoils.
"If you keep a clean sheet, the defence are heroes," said Buxton.
"But I thought the lads were fantastic – when you consider the amount of balls they slung into our box.
"We were disappointed to concede twice, as we'd looked so comfortable in the first half and dealt with everything they threw at us.
"And having been 2-0 up with 40-odd minutes to go, we are disappointed but to put it into perspective, it is a good point away from home.
"Their fans lifted them – they were drawing the ball down our end.
"We never really got hold of the ball after their first goal. We couldn't get it back and burst their bubble.
"They were getting stronger and stronger. So it's a good point in the end."
Buxton will now wait to see how he recovers ahead of tomorrow night's visit to promotion-chasing Hull City.
"You never know how your body will react when you've been out for so long, so we'll just have to wait and see," he said.
"It will be a very tough game at Hull. They are probably one of the best sides that has come to Pride Park this season.
"They did their homework on us and stopped us from playing.
"It's going to be a different game at their place, because they are going to have to come out at us.
"We'll be looking to get the ball down and pass it – and also try to be strong as a unit."