Tranmere have been dealt a double injury blow ahead of Wednesday night’s FA Cup first round replay against Peterborough at Prenton Park.
Jeff Hughes and Mitch Duggan both limped out of Saturday’s 2-0 win over Dagenham before half-time.
Manager Micky Mellon revealed after the game the pair had picked up hamstring injuries, and he is now predicting they will spend around three weeks on the sidelines.
“It’s not great news,” he said. “It brings the numbers in the squad right down.
“But it gives somebody else the opportunity to go in and carry things forward.”
The news is particularly galling for Hughes, who enjoyed one of his best games in a Tranmere shirt in the initial game at Peterborough earlier this month.
Afforded more time on the ball, he was able to dictate the play from midfield, picking passes at will and moving Rovers forward. It was a stark contrast to the National League, where, although his form has been good, he has a player snapping at his heals within a split second of receiving possession.
Jay Harris is likely to replace him tonight, and although he is an equally talented player, Hughes’ absence is a big one.
“He has been playing well for a long time,” Mellon continued.
“Since I’ve been here, he’s been superb. It’s a loss to the group not to have that certain type of player.
“But we’ll bring somebody else in with a different type of qualities and we’ll be able to play in a different way.
“Duggan has given us good competition at full-back as well. It’s a bit of a blow, but we’ll move on.”
Rovers’ injury problems over the last year have been well documented, with the likes of James Wallace, Jake Kirby and Ben Tollitt all long term absentees.
Jack Dunn is out at the moment with a hamstring injury as well, whilst Elliot Rokka is on his way back from damage to his cruciate knee ligaments
It has been a frustrating time for Mellon, who admits: “We’re a wee bit stretched at the minute.
“We’re wrapping people in cotton wool as we’re coming into a busy time.
“We’re pulling back a little bit to make sure that we have a very strong group to take us through these difficult games.”
Such a long injury list means Mellon is likely to return to the 3-5-2 formation he played at London Road in the initial tie.
That would mean Jay McEveley starting in central defence, whilst Andy Cook could continue up front after an impressive display against Dagenham at the weekend.
“We always try and look at the opposition and think about what we can do with the personnel that we have,” Mellon added.
“We want to try and create problems and nullify theirs, but without being too reckless. We don’t try and chop and change it too much.
“We’ll have a look and we have an idea of a plan and the way that we want to go.
“We like the team to be adaptive and able to answer the questions that the game asks them.
“If that means that teams play direct against us, we want adaptive footballers. You have to do the jobs that are needed to combat that.
“So whatever we play against, we like to be able to adjust in order to try and get some joy.”
A larger than average crowd is expected at Prenton Park tonight as the Wirral turns out to hopefully see an upset.
Not since 2004 have Rovers beaten a team in a higher league than them in the FA Cup, although opportunities to do so have been few and far between.
Only Premier League duo Swansea and Wolves and Championship side Derby have knocked Tranmere out of the competition since a third round win over Bolton 14 years ago.
This is a club with plenty of cup pedigree though, and there is an air of confidence that they can deliver against Grant McCann’s League One team.
Mellon thinks those who come through the turnstiles tonight can help cheer his side on to victory.
“The fans have a huge part to play, and they always have done,” he added.
“We always say what a big impact it has on the team when the crowd really get behind them during the games.
“So as an entire football club, everybody’s got a part to play, including the fans.
“I always think that when a football fan turns up, his or her purpose is to get behind the team.
“Of course we all get disappointed. I do as the manager. I stand there on the sidelines sometimes and think that wasn’t really what I asked for or expected.
“But it’s important that we put that to one side, all of us, including myself, because there are times when I want to lose the plot!
“You’ve got to remember that they’re human beings and they make mistakes. Our role is to get the maximum out of them.
“The fans are huge to us and we love the support they give us. We’re very proud of how well we’re supported.
“We’ve always got to try and represent them.”