ALEX LAWLESS hopes his frustrating stints on the sidelines will come to an end when Forest Green take on Lewes tomorrow.
An ankle injury has kept the versatile Welshman out of Rovers' past two matches, the latest of which saw a depleted squad battle back from 2-0 at half-time to draw with Blue Square Premier pacesetters Crawley Town.
Normally one of the first names on Jim Harvey's team sheet, he has also had to endure a hip problem in a stop-start campaign.
"I'm absolutely itching to get back playing, even more so after watching the lads do so well at Crawley," said Lawless.
"I picked up the knock on my ankle against Torquay (on September 23) and assumed it was minor, but I've had to go through rehab with the physio and it's taken longer to get over than I thought.
"All being well, I'll be playing against Lewes, which is obviously a really big game because we haven't picked up three points for a long time.
"People will be expecting us to win down there, but we have to be careful – we got beaten by another promoted team in Eastbourne a few weeks ago and we can't let that happen again."
Despite lingering euphoria surrounding the Crawley comeback, the fact remains that Rovers have collected only two points from a possible 24 since topping the league at the end of August.
And player-coach Jerry Gill has warned his team-mates that they must tighten up at the back if they are to return to the upper reaches of the table.
"Crawley are top of the table and we were one down in three minutes with some schoolboy defending from a free-kick," said Gill.
"We have got to be better than that and I will be taking some training sessions on defending set-pieces."
Nonetheless, the former Cheltenham Town skipper has detected a new mood of optimism within the squad following their heroics at the Broadfield Stadium.
Gill said: "We were all happy afterwards and we think that will be a turning point for us.
"We have been on a bad run and now we go to Lewes feeling that is a game we can win."
Currently one place off the foot of the table, tomorrow's opponents put up a brave fight at Cambridge United on Tuesday night before going down to Jon Challinor's injury-time strike.