ELGIN City’s squad has been decimated by one of the worst injury crises of manager Jim Weir’s career.
Six City stars came a cropper in the 1-1 midweek draw at Cowdenbeath, leaving Weir with major selection worries for Saturday’s visit of League 2 leaders Forfar Athletic.
Star striker Shane Sutherland’s comeback from a knee injury lasted just seven minutes of Wednesday’s match, while defender Matthew Cooper is out for a month after tearing his hamstring.
Ali Sutherland went off with a bad facial injury and Archie Macphee, Keiran Stewart and Chris Dodd all played on with injuries in Fife as Weir had already used all his substitutes.
With Jamie Reid still nursing bruised ribs, Scott Smith only just starting on the road to recoveryafter seven months out and Robbie Bruce on Scotland under-18 duty tonight, the City boss suggested he may have to draft in a trialist just to make up numbers.
He is facing up to the possibility of having just a bare 11 available for one of the biggest matches of Elgin’s season.
“I’ve never had anything as bad as this, apart from my second year at Brechin early in the season when we had six players out injured,” said Weir. “We’ve got a big game on Saturday and whatever bodies we’ve got available, we’ve just got to roll up the sleeves and have a go.
“I’m anxiously looking at a trialist who is a free agent. That’s something that might come to fruition because we are struggling for Saturday, big time.
Sutherland’s injury is of particular concern to Elgin, as his absence for the last five games has been a major factor in the team’s poorest run of results.
Weir is still hopeful that his top scorer’s knee problem is not a serious one. He is now awaiting a scan to determine what is wrong, but feels the matter should have been dealt with more quickly.
“We have to get the knee scanned and see what damage there is. I don’t think there is any major damage but it’s not for me to say that. We have to assess and find out what’s causing the problem.
“It’s now been three weeks and he isn’t any better. Fingers crossed it’s minor and we get him back fit and ready to play, not the way we’ve had to handle it for the last three weeks.
“He’s such an important player for the team. For me he’s the player of the year in this league and it would be a shame to lose him at such a crucial time.”
Weir said Sutherland was distraught after breaking down just minutes after coming on as a half time substitute at Cowdenbeath.
“He was on apologising to me (on Wednesday) and he’s got nothing to apologise for. We have got a responsibility to look after our players in terms of their health.
“We all know Shane is desperate to play, he knows how much the team has missed him. I am trying not to rush him, though I’ve put a bit of pressure on at times.
“He was due to train this week but because we had a game instead, we wanted to give it a try. A lot of people will say it was a gamble but we were hoping he was fit and he was thinking that himself. Unfortunately the knee hasn’t held up.”
Cooper limped off before half time with a grade 2 tear to his hamstring, meaning three to four weeks out. Ali Sutherland has extensive bruising to his eye socket and cheek after taking a knee to the face, while Macphee picked up a foot injury early in Tuesday’s game and was limping heavily in the final half hour.
Dodd has aggravated a groin problem which kept him out of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Annan, and Stewart also battled on with a knee injury sustained during the midweek game.
City led through Brian Cameron’s 14th goal of the season midway through the first half, before their problems developed. Cowden punished poor defending to level early in the second half and a battle-weary Elgin had to hang on after that, grateful for some good saves by goalkeeper Cammy MacKay.
Manager Weir is also angry that his team has twice been asked to make midweek journeys on the back of marathon Saturday trips to Berwick and Annan.
“The way the games were rearranged, it’s not sour grapes, it’s just common sense. Even after our two midweek games we’ve had to play first and second in the league. That’s after two midweek away games, on the back of travelling away to the two furthest away teams in the league.
“The geography just kills our players in terms of travelling. Some of these guys won’t have got home until 4 o’clock in the morning and they are up at six o’clock for work the next day. How are they expected to perform or how are we expected to get a freshness out of them?
“It’s just quite ridiculous that when these fixtures were rearranged.”