BOSSES at Bedlington Terriers and Ashington will be forced to leave announcing their respective line-ups until the last possible minute after being beset by a pile of injury problems ahead of the big Boxing Day derby clash at Welfare Park.
Joint managers Tony Lowery and Keith Perry at Bedlington and their opposite number at Ashington, Gary Middleton, will this week sweat over the fitness of a host of players before they can even contemplate naming their team.
Lowery said: “I’m struggling to get 11 fully fit players on the park at the minute.
“Anthony Shandran came off after only ten minutes on Saturday at Billingham Synthonia and although I’m hoping he is going to be alright as we have a free week, he’s probably rated 50-50.
“John Campbell and Craig Hubbard are in the same boat – John has an ankle problem whilst Craig a groin strain.
“And on top of that, Stuart Elliott is ruled out through suspension.
“I know I say the same things every time a derby match comes around – but it’s only because I believe them to be true.
“This is a hard, tough league and I cannot believe it when people knock the competition.
“Both clubs are in a similar position, looking to push for a top six placing, but from our angle, we’ve now got to look to try and win something.
“We are playing well at home and I would expect us to beat anybody – except that injuries are crippling our plans.”
Middleton admits his side will have to be at the top of their game if they are to take anything from the outing.
His side were due to take on Consett at home on Tuesday night but the game was called off, helping the boss avoid seeing his side pick up any more injuries.
“Injuries are a big concern to us at the minute,” he said.
“Mark O’Dea, Gareth Rees and Jonny Godsmark are all struggling with hamstring problems; Paul Buzzeo has a back injury; Michael Hogg has a concern about his shoulder then there are the long term casualties, Stephen Young (broken leg) and Darren Lough (fractured skull).”
And the boss knows his side face a tricky clash.
“We have a score to settle after our 4-1 defeat earlier in the season when it was a bit of a walkover for Bedlington,” he said.
“But we know Bedlington’s strengths and Tony and Keith have assembled a good side.
“We will have to be at the top of our game and if we are then we are more than capable of getting a result in what should be a very exciting encounter.”
The game on Monday, December 26, kicks-off at noon.