CITY hat-trick star James Hanson today confessed that he had feared finishing the season as a bit-part player.

Hanson made a spectacular return after nine games out of the side with the first treble of his career.

The goals, all scored in a 15-minute blast in Saturday’s 4-0 thumping of play-off rivals Walsall, also lifted the striker above Dean Windass into third in the club’s all-time leading scorers list.

It was some return to action for Hanson, who had last started a game on March 5 at Bury.

Having found himself behind Jamie Proctor in the pecking order, he admitted he thought he might see out the rest of City’s campaign as a sub.

Hanson said: “My game times were decreasing. I was getting 30 minutes at first then 20 and less.

“I was getting less and less minutes and started to think ‘is that my season over?’ In my opinion, I don’t feel I’m an impact player off the bench.

“When I got four minutes at Coventry the other night, I was wondering what more I could do.

“But obviously the gaffer knows me well and he knows how to get the best out of me.

“He gave me a chance to start again and it was up to me to take it with both hands. It shows that when I’m at my best, I’m unstoppable.”

Phil Parkinson decided to switch the whole frontline and partnered Hanson with Filipe Morais, who scored the opener in his first start since the knee injury.

City’s sixth home win in a row virtually sealed their play-off place – they only have to equal Gillingham’s result next weekend to make sure.

It was the biggest margin of victory in the league at Valley Parade since September 2013 when they beat ten-man Brentford by the same score.

City moved to within a point of Walsall and are chasing a third or fourth-placed finish to secure home advantage in the play-off second leg.

Parkinson was effusive in his praise for Hanson.

“He’s got the courage to produce when it matters most,” said the City boss.

“He hasn’t moaned while he’s been out the team. He’s been telling us by the way he’s trained that he’s ready.

“He couldn’t have answered any more emphatically.”

Hanson’s first goals since mid-February took him up to 87 for his career and finally past Windass. He is only six off second-placed Frank O’Rourke and has reaching a century in his sights.

Hanson added: “It wasn’t just about the hat-trick. I’ve been eyeing Deano’s total for a while.

“I needed two more to get into third and I thought it was never going to come. Then I got two goals in a minute.

“I’ve had a lot of chances this year and missed a few. But I knew I was going to have one of those days when everything would go in.

“I didn’t even have time to think about getting a hat-trick because I scored the third only about a minute after the second.

“Being a local lad, it’s a great achievement for me and my family to see my name up there on the list.

“At this moment in time I’ve got another year left (on my contract) and I’m looking to score as many as I can.

“Hopefully I can get to 100. That’s the next target and I’ve got 13 to go.

“I’m more than capable of that. I’ve just got to keep working hard and try to stay in the team.”