The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Joshua Richards

MATT Smith is eye­ing up a re­turn to Ful­ham’s start­ing XI on a reg­u­lar ba­sis af­ter in­jury – even though the striker ad­mits that is eas­ier said than done given the form of Moussa Dem­bele.

Af­ter scor­ing on the open­ing day of the sea­son, Smith, 26, suf­fered a knee in­jury against Hull three days later and spent more than a month on the side­lines.

But he re­turned last week­end as an unused sub­sti­tute in the thrilling 4-2 vic­tory over Read­ing and will be ea­ger to show Kit Sy­mons that the worst is now be­hind him.

While sat on the bench at Craven Cot­tage last Satur­day, he watched Dem­bele score two and set up one of Ful­ham’s four goals – hav­ing also net­ted three days ear­lier against Leeds – and striker Smith knows the 19year-old’s form means he will have to work hard to get back in the start­ing line-up.

“Moussa’s re­ally shone, he’s been one of the stand­out per­form­ers, cer­tainly in my ab­sence,” Smith said.

“I’ve said all along Moussa re­ally does have all the phys­i­cal at­tributes to be a top, top foot­baller.

“It’s healthy com­pe­ti­tion. Ob­vi­ously I want to be back in that XI where I started out the sea­son.

“I have no in­ten­tion of just sit­ting around on the bench, so we’ve all got to push our­selves.

“The Cham­pi­onship’s a dif­fi­cult league, you can have three games a week.The win­ter months in par­tic­u­lar are when teams can come into their own, so you’re re­ally go­ing to need the whole squad.

“It’s up to me that when I do get the op­por­tu­nity to get out on the pitch I prove my worth again and try and get back to scor­ing goals, as I did at the back end of last sea­son and then the very first game of this one.

“I was in­jured not long af­ter that, so if I get back on the pitch and start scor­ing goals again, hope­fully that can get me back in the side.”

RE­TURN: Matt Smith

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