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Influential Matt Oakley is on target for a February return for misfiring City

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

By Stuart James

Matt Oakley

Matt Oakley

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Exeter City midfielder Matt Oakley is ahead of schedule in his comeback from the ankle injury that has ruined his campaign, but it will not be until February before he is back in the Grecians' first team.

The influential and experienced 36-year-old suffered serious ankle damage after an innocuous tackle in the 3-1 Devon derby win over Plymouth Argyle on October 5.

However, while he is off his crutches, it will be another two months before Exeter fans can expect to see him back in first-team contention.

"I'm ahead of schedule, I went to see the surgeon two weeks ago, which was the six-week point, and he told me he was really happy with the ankle," Oakley said.

"I was literally in his office for five minutes and he said to me to stick to the time-frame he had given me, which was January 9, 12 weeks, and I can start running at that point. He thinks I'm probably ahead of that, but he wants to stick to it because he doesn't want any sort of hiccup along the way.

"I just have to get through Christmas and keep the pounds off and then I will start training to hopefully start playing again at the start of February."

Oakley had just come on as a half-time substitute against the Pilgrims when he came off second best in a challenge with Argyle striker Marvin Morgan. At first, Oakley did not realise the extent of the injury, which was only really revealed on the day he went for surgery.

"It was a clumsy tackle, I got to the ball first and their guy caught my ankle which was planted in the turf and it rocked my ankle," he said.

"I felt a sharp pain at the time, but I carried on and I have had a lot of whacks in my time where it touches a nerve, settles down again and you carry on. But this time it wasn't right, I had it scanned, and that showed I had snapped two out of the three deltoid ligaments.

"When we got to the date of surgery, we saw there was a piece of bone that had chipped off about the size of a 5p and they had to do a micro-fracture, which creates more healing. So there was more work needed than what we first thought from the first scan."

Oakley's time at Exeter has been beset by unfortunate injuries. His initial loan spell from Leicester City ended early when he picked up an Achilles injury, while last season ended prematurely when he suffered a freak shoulder injury in the goalless draw with Gillingham.

"Two years ago, I had probably had the one serious injury, which was my cruciate ligament back in 2003. So to go all that way through my career with only one injury was fantastic, but since coming to Exeter there have been strange, odd injuries," he said. "I did my shoulder, which was just a trip. I have fallen over millions of times in training and on match days, but the angle I hit the floor at meant I snapped the ligaments in my shoulder and now this."

Indeed, Exeter do struggle without Oakley, and the statistics prove it. With him, City have played 52 times, winning 22 and losing 18. Without him, it is a different story with 54 games played, 11 wins and 28 defeats.

"It's nice for people to make me aware of it, but it's disappointing for me because I know how good the team are.

"I play in the team and there are certain things that I do that maybe I am not aware of that helps players and, maybe when I am not there, they are playing their own games and not getting the help they need from other players.

"There is something not happening for them at the moment, but confidence plays a massive part in the team. It is a shame because we were in such a good position and we should be in that top six pushing for promotion.

"But we aren't a million miles away, we need to get that confidence back and start picking up points again."

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