THE long-awaited return of star striker Dane Ballard after nearly 18 months out inspired a Deveronvale derby win on Saturday. Crocked in a match in September 2018, Ballard’s injury was misdiagnosed and he endured a long wait for a scan to determine he had ruptured the cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Fearing a year-long wait for surgery on the NHS, the striker was given a helping hand by club fans who helped raise cash to get his operation done privately last July. Ballard then endured another eight months of recovery and rehabilitation before finally making his comeback against Turriff on Saturday. He played 70 minutes of ’Vale’s 1-0 victory and even picked up a man of the match award for his efforts.
“It’s great to be out there on the park again,” he said. “Everything felt fine with my reactions and although it took a wee while to find my touch, I felt more comfortable the longer the game went on. In the second half I was feeling like I had never been away."
“I was told I wouldn’t be playing until April so to be involved in the middle of February is a big boost for me. It means the recovery has been going very well so I’m delighted with that.”
The frustration Ballard had felt since he limped off in a league match at Rothes at the start of last season has been understandable.
He claimed two doctors and three physios failed to diagnose the extent of his knee problem and it was months before ’Vale were able to get him a MRI scan which finally determined the ACL rupture.
The wait for NHS surgery was going to be a long one, but ’Vale fan Alan Duncan came up with the idea of a Deal or No Deal fundraising night for the player, based on the Channel 4 game show.
The cash raised from that event helped foot the bill for private surgery last September, clawing back some time lost due to the initial wait.
“They did that fundraising night and if none of them had turned up for that, we wouldn’t be at the stage where we are at now. I just want to get back to scoring goals now to give the ’Vale fans a boost for the rest of the season.”
Ballard sat on the bench at Inverurie last week but was angling for his first taste of action last week.
“I was rushing out of work every hour checking my phone to make sure I was playing. I got the shout on Saturday morning and I’m just delighted to be back.”
After 70 minutes of hard toil, Ballard came off to be replaced by Scott Dunn, who ended up scoring the only goal of the game. Initially credited to Formartine loan defender Michael Clark, the goal was given to Dunn who claimed the final touch.
“I was chuffed we got the winner towards the end. That’s the first win since Christmas,” said Ballard. "With the fixtures we’ve got left, they could be favourable for us and we have a chance of going on a bit of a run and try and get ourselves into the top half.”
Article via Grampian Online