SOUTHEND United centre-back Luke Prosser successfully came through wearing a protective mask for the first time in a behind closed doors friendly with West Ham United yesterday.

Prosser, who is currently suffering with a fractured cheekbone, played 45 minutes in a 1-0 win against the Hammers at their Chadwell Heath training ground.

And providing he comes through an operation with no added complications tomorrow, the defender is determined to return to action at Mansfield Town this weekend.

“The mask was a little bit uncomfortable to begin with but I got used to it after a while and it’s fine to play in,” said Prosser, 25.

“It hurt a little bit when I had to head the ball but I’ll be fine for Saturday as long as the operation goes OK.

“I’m going in tomorrow morning to have the cheekbone put back in to place as it’s been fractured in two places but I’ll be out in the afternoon.

“We will have to wait and see how I feel on the Friday but it’s not a major op so hopefully I’ll be OK because I really want to be involved in the game.”

Prosser fractured his cheekbone during the 1-1 draw at Dagenham & Redbridge last Tuesday but was still able to finish the game.

However, he was forced to miss Friday night’s 0-0 draw against Newport County and is now getting used to suffering head injuries.

“I’ve had concussion twice in the last month and stitches in my eyebrow as well,” said Prosser.

“It’s been quite painful but it’s all been worth it because we’ve kept a good defensive record and we’ve been able to pick up the points we’ve needed to get ourselves in a good position.”

Prosser is now desperate to help the Shrimpers keep their good run of results going at Mansfield this weekend.

And, if he does, then manager Phil Brown has confirmed the centre-back will also still be wearing the headband he has played in since suffering a nasty clash of heads in the first meeting against the Stags at Roots Hall last November.

“Luke will be wearing the headband with the mask when he’s back playing and we hope that will be Saturday,” said Brown.

“I think he’s gone from being a boy to being a man at the back for us this season and the headband acts as a constant reminder of what he needs to be doing.

“At this stage we don’t know how long he will need to wear the mask for and it could be a month or it could be for the rest of the season.

“But I’m sure he will go about his business in his usual way and he’s been fantastic for us recently so it will be a big boost to have him back out there again.”