Tom Nichols is hoping that his crucial goal in Exeter City's 2-2 draw with Bury last Saturday will convince manager Paul Tisdale to throw him in from the start of the Grecians' next League Two fixture.
The 20-year-old was a 72nd-minute introduction for Exeter, who were trailing 2-1 at the time, but five minutes later Nichols was celebrating his first goal since his winner against Chesterfield in August 2011. He even had a late chance to win the game for the Grecians, but headed a difficult chance wide from Matt Grimes' sweet cross.
"I was really pleased to get a goal, it has been a while. It has been a few years now and I would like to have scored the other one at the end, but we will take a point after coming from behind," he said. "It wasn't the easiest of chances I have ever had, but I was in the box and it was a free header, so I would like to have done a little better. I would like to have at least hit the target.
"I would like to have had Nards' chance [Bury's former City striker Daniel Nardiello headed over the bar when unmarked and six yards out], but I'm sure, like me, he went home thinking he should have scored. But we will take a point."
Nichols is catching the eye every time he comes on as a substitute, but he has not started for the first team since a 4-2 win over Walsall on April 21, 2012. Now, though, physically and mentally stronger and perhaps with a greater appreciation of the game, the Wellington-born goal-poacher feels his time has come and, if he gets an opportunity, he has vowed to take it, especially after John O'Flynn hobbled off at the weekend with an injury.
"I came into the team very young and I was a bit naive," Nichols said. "I have been brought back out of the team and haven't been back for a few years, but a lot of hard work has gone in on the training ground.
"Robbo [coach Rob Edwards] has done a lot of work with me and I would say these last few months I have improved more than in the last two years.
"I have really focused on the things I need to be good at whereas, before, I was just playing free, which wasn't the right thing to do. I'm pleased with how I'm doing at the moment."
Nichols added: Hopefully Flynny's injury is nothing serious, but I have been patient and I have been playing well for a few months now, I just need the opportunity.
"Hopefully – although I hope he hasn't hurt himself – the opportunity is there, because I know I'm going to take it.
"We have a couple of weeks now where we don't have a game, so I will keep working hard and, hopefully, I will be in the starting team for the next game.
"I definitely feel I am as close as I have ever been. I feel ready to play now and if I keep coming on and scoring, then he [Paul Tisdale] will have to play me."
Nichols is expected to lead the line for the Grecians tonight when they send a side to Plymouth Argyle for a Devon St Luke's Challenge Cup quarter-final. It is likely to be a similar City side to the Under-21 team that has fared so well in the Under-21 Premier League Cup this year, beating Torquay United, Crystal Palace and Southampton en route to a last-16 home clash with Blackburn Rovers.
"There is a great group of young lads here and a lot of them are ready to play," Nichols said. "Some of them aren't even on the bench – the likes of Jake Gosling and Jordan Moore-Taylor can play – and they just have to wait for their opportunity as well.
"We all love playing together as well, we have played together for a long time. I think the Under-21s only lost one or two games all season and the Premier League Cup is a good competition for us to express ourselves and show how good we are, because we know how good we are.
"We all have a lot of confidence in the team and people are starting to see that. We go into the games knowing we are going to win, which is great to have.
"Blackburn are going to be a good side, but they won't be any better than Southampton. We are more than ready for that game."
Tonight's trip to Plymouth will be a good test for the Grecians. The match at Home Park kicks off at 7pm.