WHITBY Town’s coaching team have some tough choices to make with question marks over a number of players’ fitness, including player-manager Darren Williams, going into Saturday’s away trip to Worksop.
The former Sunderland star (34) required four stitches after taking an elbow to the side of the head in last week’s victory over Rushall, in a match which saw a debut for another injury victim, Nathan Mulligan.
The equally-unlucky Jeff Smith, whose knee was struck by an opponent’s studs, was replaced by Mulligan just before half-time and the newcomer, signed from Northern League Norton and Stockton four weeks earlier, told the Whitby Gazette: “It was one of those games you’re not going to forget in a while.
“They had one chance in the first half, which was a flukey goal.
“I said to a few of the lads on the bench, does that goal just sum the whole season up?
“We had a few one on one chances, golden opportunities that you can’t miss when you’re fighting for your lives and they had one shot, as Nick [Liversedge] went down, that just bounced over him which was lucky.
“Fortunately, in the second half, the game just changed.”
The left-sided winger, who played for Darlington in the Blue Square Premier less than two years ago, was bitterly disappointed to pick up a knock early on in his first start, this past Monday at Bradford.
He revealed: “It was a bad day personally for me because, after 15 minutes, I got crunched right on my ankle.
“I tried my hardest to run it off, but it just wasn’t right. I was gutted because after a good performance Saturday, I thought I could push on to have another good game Monday - I was buzzing for the game.”
The Blues face a real challenge this weekend against a Worksop side they’ve beaten just four times in 23 meetings and who’ve slammed home no less than 12 goals in the two teams’ last three clashes.
In each of those meetings, Jamie Jackson proved a difference-maker, with the lively playmaker, previously with Chesterfield, netting four goals in three outings against the Blues and eleven in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier, so far this season.
Mulligan (25) is hoping to line up against him in Nottinghamshire this weekend, though not to the point where he’d deceive his new club.
“I’m getting treatment every day this week, it’s going to be touch and go,” he conceded.
“Since the game was Monday, it gives me an extra couple of days to be all right.
“I want to be a hundred per cent when I’m playing, because you’re not doing anyone any favours if you’re carrying a knock.
“You’ve got lads who are fit on the bench, who are dying to play.
“I’ve just got to be honest and hopefully, by Saturday, it’ll have settled down.”
Mulligan also believes the Blues’ midweek reverse in West Yorkshire would’ve been different if they’d won the toss and had the wind in their favour, but joint assistant coach Dennis Wheeler disagrees, stating: “We’d gone against the wind in the first half.
“I, for one, am all for that, because you know what you have to do in the second half.
“I thought, even at 2-0, you’re always in with a chance with the wind like that. You’ve got to get in their faces and make things happen -- Bradford did that in the first half and we didn’t.
“We didn’t get into it at all - we couldn’t do two passes - you’ve got to give credit to Bradford, because the more the game went on, the more they pushed us back.”
Physio Kenny Bolton will meet with Williams to check the extent of his injuries, admitting he might have a battle stopping the defensive midfielder competing.
“He thinks he’ll be all right for Saturday, but I think it might be another week.
“That’s Darren and how committed he is to the cause.”
Bolton has also been working with young striker Jordan Hugill, who hasn’t appeared since a 15-minute cameo against Nantwich in December. The rookie frontman, who joined Town from Glenn Hoddle’s Spanish football academy has suffered pulled ligaments behind his knee and is anxiously awaiting news on possible surgery, which may keep him out for the rest of the season.
But there is some good news for the Blues, with Smith likely to return at Worksop.
Meanwhile, Wheeler revealed Monday’s defeat was thoroughly analysed at Wednesday’s training session as Town now focus on the 12th-placed Tigers, who have seven wins from 14 home games.
“The lads are very disappointed, we’ve gone through it all again,” he said.
“You get these situations but you’ve got to work twice as hard to get out of it.
“We’re in the bottom four and have no right to win a game, you’ve got to earn it.
“Whether we come through the rest of the games ugly, or not, we’ve got to start winning and making things happen for ourselves.”
Worksop, who triumphed 4-3 at the Turnbull in October, have returned to play in their home town this season, after a nomadic three years, which sent them across three counties to Lincoln, Ilkeston, Hucknall and Retford.
Simon Clark’s men have more home victories than sixth-placed Marine, after coming out on top in half their games at HQ this term, although, it took a 1-0 success at Nantwich Town on Saturday to end a five-match winless run in 2012.
Victory for Whitby could see them leapfrog Mickleover Sports and cut the safety deficit to just two points.
Sports host Stafford Rangers, while fifth-bottom Stocksbridge, on the other side of the relegation divide, entertain Chasetown.