Keith Curle was delighted with the way that Manny Smith slotted into the back four, after a near five-month layoff.
Damion Stewart's suspension and injuries to the likes of Dean Leacock and Alan Sheehan meant that the manager had to call upon the services of the former Walsall man sooner rather than later.
Having seen limited game time since his return to full training, it would have been excusable had the 24-year-old looked a little rusty against Shrewsbury Town on Boxing Day.
Smith looked like he had never been away and put in a confident showing at the heart of defence, alongside Gary Liddle.
“The 90 minutes that he was able to do, that comes from all the hard work behind the scenes that nobody sees," said Curle.
“The fitness levels for a player to just come out and perform 90 minutes and not look tested is very impressive.
“He made it look as if he’s been there for the last couple of weeks and I think he enjoyed himself out there.”
Smith is set to play again in the Magpies’ clash with Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium.
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