Not since August 2018 has the 27-year-old featured for the Tigers after seeing his involvement placed on hold by two serious illnesses. MacDonald was first sidelined by a blood clot in his calf, a setback that saw him miss almost all of the 2018/19 season, and then began a more serious battle when diagnosed with bowel cancer in the opening weeks of the current campaign.
The centre-back has successfully overcome both health scares inside a turbulent 12 months and was back in black and amber for the first time in 556 days when playing an hour in the Under-23s’ Professional Development League clash with Birmingham City, which ended in a 2-0 defeat for Jon Beale and Andy Dawson’s side.
Reflecting on his return, MacDonald said: “It’s hard to describe just what it meant to be back out on a football pitch again.
“There’s been a lot of work done behind closed doors and I’m just delighted to have made it back onto the pitch. It just felt so good be back wearing the kit again.
“It’s been a long 556 days and I’ve had to wait so long for the opportunity to do what I love doing the most again – playing football.
“I felt fresh for the time I was on the pitch and it was great to get an hour under my belt. It was just good to be involved in a game-situation again.
“It was a cold evening at the Roy West Centre. It was frustrating that I couldn’t help the lads pick up a win, but I’ll take the positives from the game from a personal perspective and move on from there.”
MacDonald will look to get more minutes under his belt when the Under-23s host Nottingham Forest on home soil later this week and, if all goes to plan, it is hoped the Winchester-born defender will be in contention to feature at first-team level before the end of the season.
“To get 60 minutes for the U23s on Friday night was a great start,” he added. “Hopefully I can get some more minutes in the bank in the coming weeks and progress towards a first-team return.
“I know that I have to be patient but I don’t want to be wrapped in cotton wool anymore. There’s been more than enough of that in my time away from football.
“My aim is to keep getting fitter and fitter every day and hopefully be back in the first-team before the end of the season. Playing in the Championship would be the dream for me this season.
“I didn’t think that would be possible at one stage but I’m going to give it everything I’ve got to be fit for at least one of them. There are nine games left for the lads – nine cup finals – and if I can play a part in any of those that would be fantastic.”