TWO of Accrington Stanley's players could soon go under the knife as the Reds battle with a mini injury crisis ahead of two crucial home games.
Highly rated defender Andy Tretton has yet to make his Stanley Conference debut and has not recovered from a knee injury picked up in pre-season. The management fear now an operation will be the only solution.
And midfielder Andy Procter also looks set to see a surgeon as he too is struggling with a knee problem.
Keeper Andy Dibble is also battling to shake off a thigh strain he picked up in the Hyndburn Trophy game with Great Harwood - such an injury did hamper his Wrexham career.
"Injuries are part and parcel of football and you have got to get on with it but it is disappointing," said boss John Coleman. "Andy Tretton's injury has been so frustrating. He has been training this week but his knee is still not quite right so he will go and see the specialist again and there is the possibility of an operation.
"And it is so upsetting for Andy Procter as he picked up a knee injury in training recently. It was on his weak knee which he injured last year and he went over on it again. It looks like it will require an operation or we fear it could keep cropping up.
"And we are hoping Andy Dibble is fit for tomorrow (Sat) although he is still a bit sore."
But there is some good news for the Reds in that Coleman hopes to have Charlton Athletic keeper Darren Randolph for another month once his loan spell ends on September 24 and he thinks midfielder Alan Navarro, signed on a non contract basis last Friday, could come good for Stanley.
"Darren is a confident character and he has settled in with the rest of the players so we are talking to his agent about another month," said the Reds chief.
"And it was only in 2002 that Alan made a move for £225,000 from Liverpool to Tranmere. He has a good pedigree, he definitely has got something and has an air about him. He should do well for us, once he gets his sharpness back. Everyone is chomping at the bit to play - Rommy Boco was substitute on Saturday but was eager to come on, Paul Brown was dying to get on and Alan is quality. It is good to have a squad like that."
It is mixed news as the sixth-placed Reds face two home games in four days as they battle to seal a top five play-off spot. It is Crawley Town tomorrow (Sat), who have prolific striker and their record buy Daryl Clare in their ranks, followed by Aldershot on Tuesday at the Interlink. These were two teams who were challenging for promotion with Stanley last season but are having a torrid season so far and they occupy the bottom two spots.
"I am surprised by Crawley's start to the season but, in this league, any team can beat any other at the moment," said the Reds chief.
"You only have to look at Dagenham putting five past Altrincham last weekend. We have been on the end of strange results in our time in the Conference and any team can turn in a good performance.
"That is why three points picked up in any game is important. I have tried to instill this mentality into the lads as any of our wins could be crucial come the end of the season."
Crawley boss Francis Vines is a long-term admirer of Stanley striker Paul Mullin.
"Paul had a fantastic season last season and there are not many of his type around in this league and I would love to bring him to my club," said Vines. "But, as he has got two goals this season, I hope he is still on two after tomorrow!"
Clare has got one goal from his two Crawley games but Vines is expecting more from him, especially as Town celebrated their first win of the season over Canvey Island on Saturday.
"We have got one of the best finishes in Daryl Clare and, if we can supply him and the other frontmen with the ammunition, then they can score their fair share of goals," said Vines, whose side went full-time at the start of this season.
Meanwhile, Coleman is wary that the Shots luck could change any time.
"Aldershot have had a bad time with injuries. I spoke to their boss Terry Brown pre-season and, at one time, he had just seven fit players. It is difficult as you can't just go out and get old league players in - you have got to get players in to suit the Conference and it isn't easy," said Coleman.
"I think we have got a good team at the moment although I am always looking to strengthen it. They work hard for each other and there are no superstars. The players on the sidelines are cheering the team on and are just waiting for their chance. Whether I have got the right team, only time will tell."
Coleman is bouyed with two successive league wins over Woking and Saturday's 2-0 victory over Burton - but now expects his side to push on.
"It's no good winning games like Burton, if you then let yourselves down at home," he continued.
"What we have to realise is that any success we have is based on hard work first and foremost and we have to treat our homes games like we did the Burton game - that is to work hard, close people down, take our chances and come out and defend strongly.
"We have got to hang on in there as there is a run of 14 games, ending with Stevenage on October 15, and then we have a two week break. I think then the league will start to sort itself out and we have got to make sure we are in a good position."