RELEGATION-threatened Hucknall Town are sweating on the fitness of car-crash victim Ross Whalin as their fixture pile-up reaches a crescendo with THREE games in FIVE days.
Star goalkeeper Whalin has been one of Town’s stand-out performers this season and earned them many points with a string of man-of-the-match performances.
With The Yellows firmly encased in a battle against the drop in the Evo-Stik League, Premier Division, the last thing they need is Whalin watching from the sidelines.
The stopper is believed to have suffered cracked ribs in the smash, which happened on Tuesday morning. And manager Tommy Brookbanks fears the injury could keep him out for three or four weeks.
If that is the case, Whalin will definitely miss the trio of games coming up thick and fast in the next week — away to second-placed North Ferriby United in the league on Saturday (March 5), away to Bradford Park Avenue in a rearranged league cup quarter-final on Monday March 7 and at home to high-riding Buxton in the league on Wednesday March 9.
And he could feasibly miss all eight of Town’s games during a busy March.
“At the moment, we know he has knocked his ribs,” said Brookbanks. “And during Tuesday, he had sickness and concussion.
“If he is out, it will be a massive loss for us. He has had a great season and is a big influence in the dressing-room.
“For me, Ross has been one of the best ‘keepers in the league. He has not let us down all season.”
Brookbanks found out about Whalin’s smash at 2 pm on Tuesday — less than six hours before his side were due to face Greenwood Meadows in the quarter-finals of the Notts FA Senior County County Cup (SEE LEFT).
After making some frantic calls, he was able to draft in new signing Martin Kearney, who played for The Yellows under Dean Barrick.
“We had to get another ‘keeper in sharpish and we had to get special dispensation from the FA,” said Brookbanks. “Martin did the job for us.
“It could be Martin in goal on Saturday or it could be someone else. But we will cope.
“We cannot afford to carry two ‘keepers of Ross’s calibre and have one playing in the reserves. So we knew what the situation would be if Ross got injured. You just don’t expect an injury like this.”
The crunch period of three games in five days begins with a repeat of the fixture at North Ferriby United last season that saw fighting on the pitch and five red cards.
The league cup quarter-final at Bradford Park Avenue replaces the original tie, which was postponed last Saturday because of a waterlogged pitch.
And the hectic run closes with another rearranged game when Buxton visit Watnall Road for a replay of the game that was abandoned in January when the floodlights failed.
However Brookbanks insists his squad is ready for the challenge. Striker Tyeisse ‘TJ’ Nightingale will be back from suspension for the Bradford game, for which new signing David Graham is cup-tied. There are no other concerns over injuries and suspensions, apart from Whalin.
“It is a big period,” said Brookbanks. “But the lads are very fit and get over injuries very quickly.
“The travelling aspect will be the key issue. We go to North Ferriby tomorrow, then they have Sunday off, work Monday, then travel to Bradford in the evening.
“It is the travelling more than anything else that I am worried about. We are not the only side having to play games in quick succession, so there will be no excuses from us.”
To help keep the squad fresh, Brookbanks says his substitutes from tomorrow’s game will get a game against Bradford.
And on the relegation battle, he is still confident his side will survive. “I think five wins from the last 14 games will see us through,” he said.
The latest set of results this week leave Town only one place above the dreaded drop-zone.