Harrow Borough have been boosted by the unexpected early return of combative striker Darren Grieves .
The shaven-headed forward was not expected to return to first team action until February at the very latest, after undergoing surgery to help cure a bowel disease which has affected him for years.
However, having recovered from the first part of the surgery, Grieves was this week told he did not have go under the knife again until April, freeing him up to help steer Harrow away from danger.
And while Grieves is unlikely to start a game for at least two weeks, his mere presence in the changing room will help rejuvenate a squad whose last league venture ended in humiliation at Wealdstone.
That day they were without talismanic forward Robin Shroot, who had to watch helplessly from the sidelines, having rubber-stamped a move to Championship heavyweights Birmingham City.
And with Shroot on the way out, the return of Grieves could not have come at a better time.
"His return will be a little pick-me-up for the players," said Borough boss David Howell. "It's also great news for him, as he has just been spending time at home babysitting the kids and, no doubt, has been looked after like a kid himself. He is ready to do a job for Harrow Borough and I'm glad to have him back.
"He is a winner, a leader and even if he is not fully fit it will be good to have him around the place and in the dressing room.
"I will wait until I've seen him [in the reserves] and it is a bit premature to say I will consider him for the squad for Saturday. Competition for places is healthy and that is what we need at the moment."
Harrow host Billericay Town at Earlsmead on Saturday, and are hoping to go one better than the point they took against them in the reverse fixture last September - the goal incidentally was scored by Grieves.
Having not been able to play a league game yet this year because of the freezing temperatures, Howell reckons the enforced break will prove to be a blessing in disguise for his side.
"If we had been playing well and got a great result in the last game and had had this break then I would be more frustrated," added the manager, who also welcomed back American right back Blake Goodman from injury this week. "But we've now broken up any king of negativity and are not tainted by the Wealdstone result ... for us it gives us more time to get ourselves back together.
"Bobby Highton would have missed Saturday's game through suspension - now he will be back on Saturday and not miss a league game after serving the ban on Tuesday. It's little things like these which can help us."
He also insists his players have recovered from the shock of Shroot's notable absence in the starting lineup during that ill-fated derby clash.
"The Robin Shroot thing played on my players' psyches. To have him at the game but not playing was like being in a war without a machine gun.
"Some of the players were shocked I left Robin out. They knew it was an important game and that it was a big loss. They were wondering if I was treating the game lightly but I would not have asked Robin to play after he had agreed to the move. If he was a contracted player it might have been different."
Howell is not taking the upcoming game against Billericay lightly, as he believes they are still capable of mounting a promotion challenge under the guidance of his old mate Jason Brown.
Talking about Billericay's 2-1 defeat at Ryman Premier leaders Dover on Tuesday, Howell said: "Billericay will benefit from playing a good competitive game in front of a big crowd, but I hope they got a couple of knocks! They are not that far away. They are eight points off Carshalton and will play 4-4-2.
"I know Jason Brown very well. I spoke to him not long ago about a team we were due to face and we ended up beating them. He has been telling me I owe him one ever since."
**Where? Earlsmead, Saturday, 3pm
* Manager: Jason Brown & Grant Gordon
* League record to date: P21 W8 D6 L7
* Last five (most recent first): L, W, D, D, W
* Last five away: L, W, W, L, L
**Top scorer: Billy Bricknell (15)
* Current league position: 12th
* Last season: 10th
* 2007/08 season: Harrow won 3-1 (H) and drew 2-2 away