Appleton’s injury fears come true

Hayden Mullins picked up a calf injury against West Ham
Hayden Mullins picked up a calf injury against West Ham
Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gaffer: Pompey defender needs to return to centre-back

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It has long been Michael Appleton’s worst fear as Pompey boss – now the unthinkable has occurred.

Injuries are beginning to bite deep into the Football League’s smallest squad.

And Appleton’s lack of numbers means his playing resources are being stretched to breaking point in an effort to paper over such cracks.

Aaron Mokoena (hamstring) and Hayden Mullins (calf) limped out of the action during last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to West Ham.

They joined Luke Varney (knee) and Ricardo Rocha (calf) in the treatment room.

In addition, David Norris must serve a three-match ban following his straight red card for a challenge on the Hammers’ Winston Reid.

In the meantime, a tough trip to Cardiff on Saturday is looming every larger on the horizon.

The Blues’ 19-man squad is creaking and groaning.

And Appleton and his medical staff can only do their best in patching them up from game-to-game.

He said: ‘We have to be so careful to look after the players between games and manage them.

‘We have got two or three players who need off-loading (resting) quite a lot at the minute because they are carrying knocks and injuries. The thing that makes me laugh every week is I go into the game thinking “who am I going to play?” or “I might play him but I could bring him back in” or “he’s back from injury, should I throw him back in?”.

‘But I actually cannot do anything.

‘Teams pretty much know my team before I turn up on a Saturday – whereas I might not know who their manager is going to play.

‘That is difficult because you would like an option to keep people guessing.

‘We are not in that luxury of a position at the minute. We are where we are and I just hope one day people can turn around to me and go “we can’t guess what team you are going to pick this week because you have so many options”.

‘But until we get a situation where I can choose from a squad of 22 to 25 players, we are going to be in the position we are at the minute where every single game becomes crucial.

‘Not just the result but keeping players fit.’