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After an absence of just over five weeks, the second division is back! Jos Luhukay's side resume their league campaign at Greuther Fürth on Tuesday evening (20:30 CET) aiming to carry on where they left off before the winter break, when they beat Wehen Wiesbaden 3-1 to end their barren run before signing off with an impressive 3-0 win over league leaders Arminia Bielefeld.

The mid-season stoppage effectively came at the wrong time for the Boys in Brown, who after the home wins against Wehen Wiesbaden and Arminia Bielefeld would have liked a chance to continue their upward trajectory. "It would have been nice to keep going but we can go into the winter break with bags of confidence," said centre-back Leo Østigård a little over five weeks ago. There was nothing the Boys in Brown could do about the enforced break, of course, and so they used the two weeks off over Christmas to wind down and recharge their batteries before returning to training on 4 January determined to get the best-possible preparation for the remaining 16 games of the season.

Luhukay was pleased with the work the Boys in Brown put in during their three-week winter preparations. The St. Pauli boss had to make do without a dozen or more players at times during an injury-plagued first half of the season but goes into the restart at Fürth missing just four players in Christopher Avevor (broken fibula and high ankle sprain), James Lawrence (knee surgery), Florian Carstens (fractured carpal bone) and Youba Diarra (inflamed knee). The rest of the squad came through winter training unscathed, meaning things couldn't be much better for Luhukay in selection terms.

"No one's been leaning back, that's for sure, as we know there's someone waiting to step in if we do," said keeper Robin Himmelmann, an ever-present so far, with a view to the battle for one of the coveted starting berths at Fürth. "It's important we hit the ground running, so we need to be tensed up from the off and raring to go," added Himmelmann, who with the rest of the team will settle for nothing less than three points from 20:30 CET on Tuesday.

The Boys in Brown therefore go to Fürth targeting their third success in a row and their first win on the road in almost 11 months, but the home side will have something to say about that, of course. Luhukay's charges have set their sights on victory to increase the gap to the drop zone, while Fürth are at a crossroads, hovering in mid-table on 25 points - six behind the promotion play-off place (3rd) and six ahead of the relegation play-off spot (16th).

Both teams struggled to find any consistency in the first part of the season, with Stefan Leitl's side going through good spells and not so good spells. A successful start to the second half, then, would allow Fürth to turn their focus to the top half of the table.


Photos: Witters