SOUTHEND United midfielder Ryan Leonard hopes tonight’s Essex Senior Cup clash at Hullbridge Sports can be the first of many more matches for him this season.

Hamstring and shin injuries have restricted Leonard to just eight starts so far this term and his last appearance for Blues came back in early November.

But the 20-year-old now hopes to stay fit and force his way back in to Paul Sturrock’s first team plans.

“It’s been frustrating for me just recently, but I’m looking forward to playing tonight and getting some minutes under my belt,” said Leonard.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to show the gaffer what I can do and get myself back into the squad and then the starting line-up.”

However, Leonard knows that will not be an easy task as Southend are currently enjoying a run of fine results.

Blues have not been beaten in their last 12 outings.

And Leonard realises he may have to wait for his next opportunity to play.

“The lads in the team at the moment have been fantastic and I know it will be difficult to get in the side,” said Leonard.

“But there are a lot of games coming up over Christmas, so hopefully I’ll get a chance in one of those and then it’s up to me to try and stay in the side.”

Staying fit will improve the chances of that happening and Leonard is confident of avoiding further spells on the sidelines after it was discovered he had one leg slightly longer than the other.

A London-based specialist has made insoles for Leonard’s boots in a bid to cure the problem and Leonard is already noticing the difference.

“I’m feeling much better and they’re definitely helping me,” said Leonard.

“Apparently everyone has one leg longer than the other, but mine was worse than most people and that’s why I was getting the injuries.

“It’s been spotted and sorted out now though and hopefully that can result in me staying fit.

Leonard will be joined in the starting line-up for tonight’s fourth clash against the Essex Senior League side by Daniel Bentley, Alex Woodyard, John Spicer, Scott Donnelly, David Martin, Freddy Eastwood and Elliot Benyon.

The match kicks-off at 7.45pm with admission prices set at £6 for adults and £3 for concessions.

The winners will travel to Ryman Division One North side Waltham Abbey in the next round.