A mix of bad luck (for a change...), having to take a punt on players with poor injury records and, of course, having to do preseason training whilst playing league games in Sep/Oct, rather than in Jul/Aug like normal clubs, have all had an impact. With Hill saying that he expects the thirteen senior squad survivors to finally be match fit in time for our next league game at Rochdale, what about the other ten?
Ben Alnwick: Just as he was getting back from a difficult summer wrestling off-field problems, including those brought on from the after affects of the Anderson era club collapse, the club confirmed that Alnwick had a flare-up of an old Achilles injury on 25 Sep. Alnwick is expected back sometime this month, but seemingly unlikely to be fit in time for Rochdale. Hear that he’s a really decent bloke, so fingers crossed Ben will be contesting that goalie jersey sometime soon.
Harry Brockbank: The highly rated young centre/right back was reported as out with an unspecified injury on 14 Sep. Expected back in contention in October, Brockbank suffered a setback upon his return to the training ground last week with a recurrence of a ‘muscular issue’. This has pushed his recovery back a fortnight and it seems unlikely that he will be in a position to return to first team contention before next month.
Liam Edwards: Confirmation of how highly he is rated by the club was evidenced by him being offered and signing a contract extension whilst out injured. The club stated last month that Edwards picked up an ankle injury during the League Cup game against Rochdale on 13 Aug. However the BN later reported the issue to be a groin injury. Either way he is expected to return this month, but is unlikely to make the Rochdale match.
Jake Wright: Our big loanee from the Blades, the centre back went off injured in the Sunderland game on 21 Sep. Reported as having damaged his hamstring, Wright is expected to be out until later this month. A top quality player who we need back sooner rather than later.
Josh Earl: On loan from Preston, the left back lasted just 15 minutes into his debut game at Wycombe. Earl fell awkwardly on his ankle, damaging the ligaments. The good news is that he has made a successful return from injury, on schedule, in time for the Monday U23 match against Crewe. Apparently he played well. Whilst no doubt behind the others for match fitness, I’d expect him to be in the squad for Rochdale.
Joe Bunney: The left back didn’t even make it to Hills first league game against Rotherham, after breaking a collar bone and ribs in a late night road traffic accident on 09 Sep. Not expected to return until Dec.
Liam Bridcutt: Our other big loanee signing, this time from Forest, the defensive midfielder had become the fulcrum of our improving side until being slam dunked by Blackpool striker Armand Gnanduillet and fracturing a collar bone in the process. Also not expected back until Dec. Have heard he has returned to Forest for treatment but cannot confirm whether this is true at time of writing.
Will Buckley: Fractured his kneecap at Rochdale in the Tin Pot Cup, but Wanderers only announced the injury prior to the game against Blackpool six days later. A shame as Buckley looked like he was actually grasping a second chance at the Wanderers given to him by his old Rochdale gaffa Hill. As with Bunney and Bridcutt, the Christmas lights will be up well before he’s back in contention for the first team.
Chris O’Grady: Seemingly been closing in for a first team debut since the striker signed on 02 Sep, he’s still out with a knee injury. Allegedly due back this month, however the urgency has reduced somewhat thanks to the Joseph Dodoo signing and Connor Halls recent return.
Connor Hall: As recently reported in the BN, a certain start at Wycombe was prevented thanks to a ‘freakish training ground injury’. Conner explained “I think Harry Brockbank put a cross in from the right and I stretched out to hit but fell on to my ankle. It dislocated and did damage to the ligament. I was in pain and knew I wouldn’t be playing again for a fair while.” Nevertheless, Hall is back bang on schedule and played along with Earl in Monday’s U23 game against Crewe, scoring our only goal. Connor has had bad luck with inopportune injuries and deserves a crack at the first team. Hopefully he’ll be on the squad on Saturday.
So there have it, Earl and Hall are back in contention, with Alnwick, Edwards, Wright and O’Grady hot on their heels. It’ll be nice to have some experience on the bench for a change, giving Hill options during the game. With Bridcutt and Buckley in lengthy absences, we still need to sign another midfielder of course, although it looks like a Ben Marshall signing is fading fast and Gary O’Neill doesn’t appear to be on Hills wish list. Maybe one of the many trialists that are being played in the U23 matches will strike the right note. We will see. Either way, here’s to finally ending that winless streak at the UNIBOL on Saturday. It’s well overdue.