Bournemouth captain Tommy Elphick is targeting a return to first-team action in time for the Cherries' FA Cup tie at Portsmouth on Saturday.
The defender has been out of action since an ankle operation in October.
Elphick, 28, came through unscathed after playing 57 minutes in an under-21 match against Gillingham on Tuesday.
"To get ready for the Premier League again, I think Saturday could be the perfect stepping stone for me," he told BBC Radio Solent.
Elphick's last appearance for Bournemouth came against Norwich in a 3-1 defeat at Carrow Road on 12 September.
He first sustained the ankle injury in a 4-3 win at West Ham in August and had initially been expected to be out for just 10 weeks.
"It's been a little bit frustrating that it's taken a bit longer," added Elphick. "But sometimes you have to let your body talk and listen to it.
"Conditions over Christmas and in the last few weeks have held me back in sessions and in training games. But it's something I've dealt with before and I've taken a huge step in the right direction now.
"My injury was tested to the max on a soft surface against Gillingham. Touch wood, there's been no reaction and the early signs are good."
Elphick also says playing at Fratton Park in the FA Cup fourth round would be a fitting way to round off his rehabilitation.
"Portsmouth has been a good place for me," he said. "It's where I came back from an Achilles injury after I first signed for Bournemouth, so that gives me a bit of comfort."