ADNAN AHMED can't wait to make his first start of the season.
The 21-year-old midfielder is now fully fit after three substitute appearances and a starring role in the 1-1 draw against Rotherham on Monday.
And he's eager to get to grips with struggling Port Vale at the Galpharm tonight (7.45) if, as expected, he gets the nod.
"We definitely need to win our home games and, after getting that late equaliser on Monday, I'm optimistic we can take three points off Port Vale," said Ahmed, whose season so far has been wrecked by a knee injury.
"If we work hard I'm sure our ability will kick in and we'll pick up the points we need.
"From my point of view, I feel absolutely fine at the moment and I'm ready to play when needed.
"We all know in this busy period that there will be opportunities for a lot of players with injuries and suspensions taking their toll, so it's up to every individual to take their chance when it comes."
Ahmed became a firm favourite with fans during Town's storming finish to last season and, after bit-part appearances against both Bristol City and Southend, he made a massive impact at Millmoor when replacing Mark Hudson for the second half.
"The gaffer just told me to enjoy myself and it was great to reward the fans right at the end with that equaliser from Gary Taylor- Fletcher, because we worked really hard to get back in the game," said Ahmed.
"I've had good physio from Lee Martin, I've really strengthened my knee around the thigh area and I'm feeling really positive.
"This season has been a bit of a nightmare for me so far, but I was speaking to my family this holiday and we believe 2006 is going to be a really good year for all of us and I'm certainly looking forward to it.
"I know I've still got a bit of work to do to get to full match sharpness - which is why I mistimed so many tackles against Rotherham and was probably lucky to stay on the field - but I'm almost there and every appearance helps.
"If I get the chance, I'll be up for it and, as a team, if we win our home games and keep picking up points away, we know we'll be in a strong position to challenge for promotion this season."
Martin Foyle's Vale come to the Galpharm in 17th place, but they are bottom of the current form table following their 2-1 home defeat by Blackpool on Boxing Day.
Their last win in the League, however, came against Southend last month and they are desperate to get back to something like that form.
"We'll have big backing," added Ahmed. "Our supporters have been phenomenal all season, there was a brilliant turnout at Rotherham and, hopefully, we can give them plenty to cheer against Port Vale."
Port Vale - Goodlad, Abbey, Cardle, Pilkington, Fortune, James, Birchall, Dinning, Togwell, Innes, Constantine, Lowndes, Husbands, Brain, Bell, Holmes.
Town - Rachubka, Holdsworth, Adams, Mirfin, N Clarke, Brandon, Worthington, Ahmed, Hudson, Booth, Abbott, Taylor-Fletcher, T Clarke, McIntosh, Senior, McAliskey, McCombe, Collins.
Referee - Andy Woolmer (Northampton).