Kenny Jackett has admitted frustration after seeing Oli Hawkins ruled out for up to six weeks with a foot injury.
The 27-year-old was forced out of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup defeat to Southampton and replaced by Paul Downing after picking up the knock on 59 minutes at Fratton Park.
It was only his third game into a first-team return from separate back and foot injuries which hindered his fitness in recent months.
And it represented a third game in a row where the former non-league striker operated as a centre-back in Jackett’s side.
It’s a position the Blues manager had identified would be Hawkins’ specialised role this term, after making nine appearances as a makeshift defender during the 2017-18 season.
He was making an impression in the position, too, picking up The News’ man-of-the-match award at Wycombe last Saturday, and the ex-Dagenham & Redbridge front man producing an eye-catching performance alongside Christian Burgess before injury struck against Southampton.
Jackett is now forced into reshuffling his starting line-up again for the visit of Bolton, with Downing expected to be recalled at the heart of the defence.
Although, the manager is once again contemplating putting captain and midfielder back Tom Naylor there.
Whoever gets the nod, though, Jackett is frustrated – both for the player and himself – that Hawkins could be out until the start of November.
‘It’s frustrating because I was always going to give him a chance at centre-back this year and I wanted to bring in enough forwards where I didn’t move him from one position to another.
‘I didn’t want that to be the case this season, I’d rather him settle down at the back now.
‘Going up, hopefully he can get six or eight headers in set-pieces for us at centre-back, that is the plan.
‘In training and all the games we want to help him make the conversion to centre-back and gain confidence there.
‘It might be one where the last 20 minutes of a game you throw him up, but his general play, week-to-week, his training and his video work is as a defender.
‘It’s like James Bolton, I was always going to give those guys a chance as and when they were right.
‘It’s frustrating for Oli, but he has to be patient and wait the four to six weeks.
‘We’ve seen he can do it many times, not just in this little spell.
‘Unfortunately, he has to get over this injury – they do happen.’