A LONG spell out injured preceded Sam Hird's time with Barrow AFC, which is why he is pleased to be making a swift return from a recent calf strain.

The experienced centre-back will return in the Bluebirds' match against Dagenham & Redbridge at Holker Street tomorrow after setting out their last two games for fear of making the injury worse.

Hird has managed to get back on track with AFC since signing just over a year ago, becoming a key part of their back three this season, alongside youngsters Matt Platt and Patrick Brough.

The year prior to that had brought the 32-year-old's first prolonged spell out of action, which led to a sorry end to an otherwise successful six years at Chesterfield and a disrupted spell at Alfreton Town.

Hird said: "Before I joined, I had a difficult year where I had a couple of injuries off the back of each other; I had a big hip injury which required surgery and I had a small knee injury after that.

"Within the space of a year, I only played about four or five games, but since I've come to the club I've managed to be injury-free, really.

"It's part and parcel of football, picking up injuries, but the aim is to stay fit as long as possible and that's what I've done."

Hird agreed with manager Ian Evatt's decision to not risk him in the 2-1 defeat at Dover Athletic last Tuesday and the result of the cautious approach towards his injury means he is now free to play a full part in Barrow's run-in.

"It was more than a tight calf and was probably a slight pull, so I definitely would not have been able to play at Dover and I would have been too much of a risk for the Barnet game," Hird said.

"It's best just to be precautionary with these type of things - you're better off missing one or two games than making it worse and missing more than you'd like to or what the club would like any player to miss."

Hird has a little more competition to deal with in defence after Dan Jones re-joined the Bluebirds from Salford City on loan until the end of the season, which has considerably increased their strength in depth.

Midfielder Jason Taylor had to fill in at the back against Dover, while a not fully-fit Josh Granite soldiered on in the FA Trophy defeat at Barnet, so Jones' arrival comes at a good time.

Hird said: "Obviously, we've got the likes of Connor Brown, Tayls and Josh Granite who can all play there as well, so it's adding another player who can play in those positions and a good one at that.

"The fans at the club know what a good player Jonesy can be, so it's a good signing.

"We've had another lad in today up top [Jamie Soule], so it's two good signings for us that strengthens the squad and brings competition for places, which is what you need if you want to win titles."