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James Crawley

James Crawley writes

Posted Wednesday, February 14th 2018

O'Neil delighted to be back

Gary O'Neil has played his first competitive football match after a six-month injury layoff.

The central midfielder, 34, helped the City U23s beat Liverpool 1-0 at Ashton Gate in the Premier League Cup on Tuesday night, Opi Edwards' deflected free kick proving the difference.

O'Neil started for Luke Williams' young Robins, taking the role of captain for the evening until he was substituted around the hour mark.

His last City appearance came in August against Watford before he underwent knee surgery.

'A TOUGH ROAD'

On returning from injury, O'Neil said: "It has been a tough road so I am delighted to be back and to have come through 60 minutes.

"I felt really good. Playing 60 minutes was about right. I was desperate to stay on but when you think about it logically, it was the right thing to play for an hour.

He's back: Gary O'Neil in action for the U23s v Liverpool.

"I was playing for a quite a while before the surgery when we couldn't figure out what the problem was. Now my knee feels a million times better. I felt nowhere near as good as I feel now. It's gone well and I hope it keeps progressing so I can get myself back in and around the first team squad.

"But we'll see how it goes, I have to see what the gaffer's plans are. I need some more minutes to get myself up to speed so I'll see if and when the first team need me and if not i'll happily get some minutes with the U23s."

'YOUNGSTERS WELCOMED ME INTO THEIR COOL GANG'

Last night's 1-0 win has secured the U23s' spot in the first of the knockout rounds of the PL Cup, regardless of what happens in the final group games.

And O'Neil believes City's victory was "deserved" 

"All the lads did well because they are a good side who move the ball well," he said.

"There were periods where we knew Liverpool would have the ball but the lads stuck to their task, all worked hard. They are a fantastic group and I enjoyed being involved with them.

"They have welcomed me into their little cool gang, being the old man but yes I've enjoyed it.

"I'm delighted they saw this one out fairly comfortably because they deserved the win."