FRUSTRATED Cherries skipper Tommy Elphick revealed he had been due to step up his recovery with an appearance in today’s postponed under-21s match at Gillingham.

The trip to Kent was called off yesterday afternoon with the playing surface unlikely to thaw in time for the centre-half to play for the first time since he succumbed to a chipped ankle bone in September.

But despite the minor setback, 28-year-old Elphick is adamant he is in the right frame of mind to take his painstaking rehabilitation to the next level with valuable match time now the sole focus of his attention.

Elphick told the Daily Echo: “It is almost the story of the injury. Timing is everything and missing out on the game having been primed for it is tough to take.

“I am at the stage where it is about getting match fitness and trying to take that step closer to being available for regular first-team duties.

“It has been frustrating, especially over Christmas, there are so many games at this time of year but, hopefully, this keeping me back a bit will be a blessing in disguise.

“The game would have been at a good time because I have been feeling really good for the past week to 10 days. I have felt normal again but you cannot replicate too much in training, the only way you get that sharpness is by playing games.

“This would have been the perfect stepping stone but, unfortunately, it was not to be. Hopefully, we can set up an in-house game which will be another move in the right direction.”

Elphick, who was ever present during last season’s Championship title success before being restricted to just five Premier League appearances to date, also lifted the lid on how the psychological elements of his recovery had been just as torturous as the physical aspects.

“It is hard. Any sort of surgery is invasive and sometimes, it is not always the injury you’re dealing with. It is really important to listen to your body with injuries like this,” he added.

“You don’t just worry about your ankle, you think about the pitches you’re planting your foot into, there is so much psychological stuff to overcome.

“For me, it has taken two or three weeks to get to the stage where I feel ready to play.

“It is hard to put dates on things or think to yourself ‘I want to get here by this stage’, you can’t do it, you have to take every day as it comes.

“Now, it is not so much the general fitness side of things for me, it is more the timing in game situations, getting used to being back on the pitch, positioning and things like that so any kind of game will be of real benefit.

“Any match will refresh your memory about the sort of positions you need to be in, your body shape and getting back that rhythm which is what I’m after at this stage of my rehab.”