Hartlepool United manager Ronnie Moore says he will not be forced by relegation pressures to rush midfielder Tommy Miller back after a calf injury.
Miller, 36, has been limited to just 16 games by the injury this season, with his last Pools appearance in October's away defeat by Cambridge.
Pools are bottom of League Two, nine points adrift in the drop zone.
"There's always a need for that experience, but we've got to be fair to him," Moore told BBC Tees.
"If he is not quite there and we push him he'll be out for the season if it goes again.
"Buster [head physiotherapist Ian Gallagher] is the one who governs that."
Hartlepool-born Miller, who has top-flight experience with Ipswich Town and Sunderland, made an appearance in the reserve-team win against Gateshead in midweek, and could be brought back into the first team before the end of the current campaign.
"He feels a lot more confident in the injury he's had," said Moore.
"Buster's looked after him really well, if anything maybe in about two weeks' time certainly Tommy could be close to a return."
Another long-term absentee in Stuart Parnaby also made his reserve return for Pools in the 1-0 win at Billingham, a match won by a goal from triallist Justin Laird.
"Parnaby is miles off at the moment," continued Moore.
"It's just fantastic that he's back training and playing to be fair to him, because it looked like it would be the end of the season for him.
"[Meanwhile] with Tommy we just have to take it week by week and day by day because he's had this calf problem and it reoccurs but at the moment he's doing OK."