City of Portsmouth Ladies face a baptism of fire on the opening day of their UK Women’s Athletics League campaign.
The team, who currently sit top of the Southern Women’s League standings, travel to Copthall in London for the start of their national division two season without a host of top athletes.
Injury and unavailability means the likes of Karrie Blake, Cassie Thorp, Jess Chen and Jessica Shuttleworth will all miss the trip to the capital.
And with Olympic javelin hope Katy Watts also a major doubt, it has given coach Dave Churcher a selection headache on the eve of their biggest match of the season.
‘If I was going to give you the list of all the people who have dropped out, I’d be here all day,’ said Churcher, who led the team to promotion last season.
‘Another one dropped out yesterday and there’s going to be gaps in most events.
‘The ones who we would have been looking for to be star performers are people like Cassie, Karrie, Jessica and Katy.
‘They are the sort of people we’d be looking at but none of them are going, with Katy maybe the only exception.
‘Jessica and Claire Netley have also dropped out, which is not ideal, as it’s good to get a good start.
‘If we’d have had everyone available we could have given a really good account of ourselves.’
Churcher admitted he may even fail to have athletes competing in certain events.
‘It will be the first time I’ve been to a competition where I’ll have no-one running in the 3000m and no-one running in the 1500 – that’s a first for me,’ he said.
‘We’ll probably have just one javelin thrower and the sprint hurdles is definitely looking a bit dodgy.
‘In this league the athletes are restricted to just three events, too, which makes it even more difficult.
‘It’s a shame because we worked really hard to get to this league and we wanted to really give it our best.’
Despite a lack of numbers, Churcher knows the athletes who are deemed fit for action will do the club proud.
‘When we’re weakened, we tend to rise to the occasion,’ said Churcher.
‘It’s a wonderful attitude to have and everyone taking part will give 110 per cent.’
n City of Portsmouth’s men’s team bid to continue their impressive start to the season when they travel to Yeovil in the Southern League.