Ebbsfleet striker Rakish Bingham could make his return from injury this weekend.
The 30-year-old is set to feature for the first time since March when the Fleet host Bishop’s Stortford in the FA Trophy Third Round.
Bingham suffered an Achilles injury during Ebbsfleet’s televised National League South win at Slough last season.
His return to full fitness will be a welcome boost and has come earlier than expected.
Manager Dennis Kutrieb revealed: “That’s the aim for him but I don’t want to put pressure on him, we’ll see if he comes through this week fine. He’s definitely very close.
“I thought maybe he will be back beginning of January or maybe Boxing Day.
“I think if we would have needed him as we have, say, just 11 players left or whatever then we could have already thrown him in, but we want to give him that last little bit to make sure he doesn’t pick up any muscle injuries.”
Bingham has been working hard on his recovery and his progress has not surprised the manager, who is a big fan of the centre-forward.
He scored 16 goals last season and was part of a formidable frontline alongside top scorer Dominic Poleon.
“I’m very impressed,” said Kutrieb. “I was always impressed since I’ve known him. He has the right work ethic, he’s honest and would never cheat on himself.
“He [has been] exactly what I thought but you never know as anything could happen.
“You can see especially in the last couple of weeks in training, everyone is speaking to him as an experienced player. They’re waiting for him to come back and from this point of view it’s very important. I can’t wait to see him back on the pitch.”
With the Fleet still in the National League relegation zone, the temptation will be to turn to Bingham to solve their short-term problems.
But Kutrieb reiterated that he will handle his recovery carefully, regardless of the team’s predicament.
“We need to be careful with him,” added the Fleet boss. “His initial injury is fine but we need to be careful because when you haven’t played for a long time you need to make sure you get the muscles back to pace, energy and power.
“We need to be careful with him, we will be, and regardless of the results and what happens around us at the moment, I would never rush him back as I don’t want to see him getting injured.”
Ebbsfleet won the FA Trophy in 2008 when a Chris McPhee goal was enough to beat Torquay at Wembley. But a return visit is the furthest thought from Kutrieb’s mind as he wants those players who get the chance to impress to stake their claim for a spot against Barnet in league action the following weekend.
“At this moment we shouldn’t look too far ahead of ourselves,” said Kutrieb.
“We need to make sure we get good quality on the pitch and have a good game on Saturday. We can take it from there, I wouldn’t look too far ahead.
“Obviously, it would be interesting for everyone but we’re far away from speaking about these things.
“It’s always the case, regardless of if you win or lose, if someone is training well or playing well then they’ve always got a chance to get back into the team and get minutes.
“I’m looking forward to a response now. It’s a chance in another competition to be successful. It’s game time for players in general which they need and it’s a good chance for us as a squad to show up.”