BURTON Albion have been dealt a blow after winger Zeli Ismail was ruled out for the rest of the season.
The on-loan Wolves starlet tore his hamstring in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with AFC Wimbledon and faces between six and eight weeks on the sidelines.
Brewers boss Gary Rowett says the 20-year-old could feature in the play-offs, with the semi-finals due to be played after his recovery date.
“It looks like he’s going to be out for the last part of the season,” said the Albion manager. “He’s expected to be out for six to eight weeks.
“It’s disappointing from our point of view and it shows the fine line between success and failure in games.
“When Zeli got injured it was three v two or three v one and he was on the ball in a great position to score.
“From that position, instead of scoring, you lose one of your most influential players at a key point of the season.
“I’ve commiserated with Zeli and I hope he’ll be able to get back if the play-offs are needed.
“We won’t rule it out completely.”
Rowett, though, is keen to give Alex MacDonald an opportunity out wide after the 23-year-old played a supporting role since the arrival of Ismail in January.
“We can’t dwell on it,” he said. “We’ve got the likes of Alex who has been frustrated because of Zeli’s form.
“He’s not been in the team and it’s not because of anything he’s done.
“One person’s loss is another’s gain.”
A wide player could arrive on loan this week to provide back-up, especially with Chris Hussey out on loan at Bury and Ismail injured.
But youngster Marcus Harness, highly rated in the club’s youth set-up, could come in and play role in the final few weeks
“We’re relatively short in wide areas,” said Rowett. “What it does is give someone like Marcus Harness, who’s been brilliant in training, more of an opportunity.
“It’d be a big ask of him – and a big shout from me – to involve him at this stage of the season.
“But he’s got no fear and a bundle of tricks.
“We’ve managed to calm his hair down a little bit! (Harness used to sport an Afro.)
“It’s taken us three seasons – but while his hair hasn’t developed, his ability certainly has.”