NEIL Harris praised Joe Martin after revealing the defender was ill leading up to the Lions’ play-off semi-final first leg at Bradford on Sunday.
Martin picked up a bug towards the end of last week but told Harris he wanted to play, before making dramatic contributions at both ends of the pitch at Valley Parade.
Martin endured a difficult start to the game, giving away an early free-kick in a dangerous position before handling in the area to gift Tony McMahon the chance to put the Bantams ahead from the penalty spot.
But the defender recovered his composure and after Lee Gregory and Steve Morison had scored Martin planted a 45th-minute free-kick past Bradford goalkeeper Ben Williams.
Martin went off in the second half, with Tony Craig coming on at left-back, and Harris was pleased with how the former Gillingham player bounced back after a nervy first 15 minutes.
“Joe travelled up (Saturday) night on his own,” Harris said. “He didn’t train with us at the end of the week and travelled up on his own to stay away from the group.
“I left him alone (Saturday) night, he went to bed early. He’d had a bug that his family had had. I met him (Sunday) morning and said: “How do you feel?” And he said, “I’m fit to play.”
“It was a difficult start and I did question my decision after five minutes! But he’s been threatening to do that with the free-kick for the last couple of months and I’m really pleased for him.
“We isolated him from the group, I know that sounds awful! He roomed on his own and got up in the morning and said he felt fine. And then he was honest enough after 70 minutes to say he couldn’t do any more.
“That’s (part of) group honesty as well.”