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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

Tony Hibbert admitted it felt good to be back after taking a giant stride towards a first-team return on Monday.

The defender made his first appearance since undergoing calf surgery in December, playing 67 minutes as Everton’s Under-21s were held to a 1-1 draw by Fulham.

Manager David Moyes last month expressed fears Hibbert would miss the remainder of the season but could now welcome back the 32-year-old for the vital Premier League run-in.

Hibbert, however, is wary injuries have restricted him to just five first-team outings this term - meaning he is in no mood to push himself too hard, too soon.

"It's great to be back," the fit-again full-back told evertontv. "I've been training for just under two weeks now and I just needed a game under my belt. Stubbsy said I could have 60 minutes and I was grateful for it.

"I felt good. The conditions were pretty terrible with the wind, and the pitch was bobbly and rock hard, so credit to the lads for playing on it. But it's just about getting my feet back into games, getting my mind ready and obviously the calf holding up as well."

Hibbert was deployed as the most central of three centre-backs as coach Alan Stubbs replicated the 3-5-1 formation Moyes used in the recent 1-0 win over Stoke.

It's not a position he expects to take up when he eventually returns to the first-team fold but one he was comfortable adopting after memorably thwarting Sergio Aguero there in last season's 1-0 win over Manchester City.

"I've played there a few times for the first team and Stubbsy wanted me to play centre-half so he could go three at the back, and that was okay with me," Hibbert said.

"The lads have done brilliantly this season, fantastically well, but for me to sit in the stands and watch, it is frustrating,” he added. “You just want to keep on playing but as a footballer you know you will pick up injuries. It's good to be back."

Stubbs’ table-topping second-string were forced to settle for a point after Shane Duffy's header was cancelled out by Muamer Tankovic 11 minutes from time.

To watch the goals and all the other highlights, click here.

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