SOUTHEND United manager Kevin Bond will not recall Stephen Humphrys to the Shrimpers starting line-up until he is completely ready to return to action.

Humphrys, who suffered horrific facial injuries when scoring at Accrington Stanley in late February, returned as a second half substitute during Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Fleetwood Town.

But Bond insists he will not be taking any risks with the striker.

“Bringing him back too soon could put him back so we might just have to bring him bit by bit until he’s ready to start,” said Bond.

“It will take time and we don’t really have time on our side to be honest but we can’t bring him in until he’s ready.”

Humphrys had scored four goals in seven games before suffering a broken nose and a fractured cheekbone and eye socket against Accrington.

But, despite having not trained, Humphrys put himself forward to play at Fleetwood and Bond remains impressed by the forward’s attitude in declaring himself available for selection.

“It was a big ask for him last week and he got on the pitch earlier than I would ever have wanted given what he hadn’t done in preparation,” said Bond.

“He put himself forward and it was remarkable he did that.

“But he has to be ready and he has to be able to do the job we want him to do before we select him from the start.”

Humphrys came on to replace the injured Harry Bunn against Fleetwood and Bond remains unsure if Bunn, who has a tight hamstring, will recover in time to feature this weekend. Luke Hyam and Jason Demetriou will also both face late fitness tests on knocks they have picked up but Stephen McLaughlin is not yet ready to return from a calf problem.

“We’ll see who is fit nearer the time before we make a final decision on the team,” added Bond.