DAVID Wheater stepped up his comeback with a first outing in almost nine months – but is not planning to rush back to first-team action too soon.

The 25-year-old Wanderers defender played 65 minutes for the Under-21 development side in last Friday’s 3-3 away draw with Manchester City and was delighted to end his long lay-off with a taste of competitive action.

But he knows it is only the first step and does not expect to be back in full training with Dougie Freedman’s seniors for a few more weeks yet.

Wheater told the Wanderers website: “I think I’ll need a bit more time to get sharp but I didn’t feel any pain in my knee.

“It’s more an issue of concentration and getting back to remembering where runners go.

“All I’ve been doing is running for the last month or so.

“It’ll be a few weeks before I take part in first-team sessions.

“There are a few more under-21 games in the next few weeks or so, so hopefully I’ll get 90 minutes under my belt soon.

“I wanted to play a bit longer so I could to get into the first team a bit quicker, but the doctor said he wanted me to play as long as I did.

“It’s obviously up to them, they know best but I’m really looking forward to getting back into the first team soon.”

Wheater is naturally champing at the bit after being sidelined since the final home game of last season against West Brom when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

It has been a long road back but getting an hour under his belt has been pleasing for the North East man.

The ex-Middlesbrough man added: “It’s tremendous to be back.

“It’s great to get all of the running and getting fit out of the way so I could be back out on the pitch again.

“The game went really well for me, as well as I could expect.

“Obviously I’m not 100 per cent as I only played 65 minutes, but I felt good. Hopefully I’ll play more next time.”

Boss Freedman is also delighted to see one of his key players close in on a return.

But, like Wheater, he is playing a sensible game and not rushing the former England U21 man back.

The manager said: “He (Wheater) did well for 60 minutes.

“He could have done more, he told us.

“We just have to make sure that he’s right when he comes back."