BURTON Albion have suffered a double injury blow ahead of the League Two play-offs.
Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, one of the rocks on which the Brewers’ promotion challenge has been built, could miss the rest of the season with a small tear in his Achilles.
Jimmy Phillips, meanwhile, tore his posterior cruciate knee ligament in Monday’s 1-1 draw at Newport County and will be out for three months.
In more positive news, on-loan Wolves winger Zeli Ismail will be in the squad for Sunday’s home clash with Chesterfield, kick-off 3pm, if he comes through training today.
“It’s not brilliant news with the injuries to Shane and Jimmy, but at the end of the day we’ve got to take it, crack on and work out where we go next,” said manager Gary Rowett.
“I’ve said all along that we’ve got a strong squad – I’ve harped on about the squad all season and now we need those players.”
The loss of Cansdell-Sherriff is a particularly bad blow for the Brewers after the on-loan Preston man forged arguably League Two’s best central defensive partnership with Ian Sharps this season.
Along with full-backs Phil Edwards and Damien McCrory, the duo have been crucial in the recording many of the 20 clean sheets so far.
But it means Marcus Holness will get a chance to carry on the good work he put in at Newport, where he gave a man-of-the-match performance.
There could also be an outside chance Cansdell-Sherriff will return in time for the second leg of the play-off semi-finals - but until then Holness has the shirt.
“We’re hopeful there might be a way around Shane’s injury,” said Rowett. “There’s a chance we might get him fit for the second leg of the play-off semi-finals.
“But we’ve got to plan for the worst eventuality and it’d be a blow for us.
“Having said that, it’s a chance for someone else.
“Marcus has done well for the games he’s come in for.
“Any physical game like Newport he relishes, and he trains brilliantly.
“If you look at the players this season who can be aggrieved at not being in the side, he’s one.
“But I haven’t had an ounce of a problem from him.
“I can pick him and he will give you everything he’s got.
“After last season in the play-offs, Marcus will feel - not that he’s got something to prove - but he will be keen to put in a really good performance.”
McCrory, meanwhile, successfully underwent an operation to clear out damaged cartilage in his knee on Wednesday and will be out for around three to four months.
Twenty-year-old Ismail (hamstring) - and Adam McGurk (groin) - should be fit to face the Spireites, while the manager will make a decision in the next few weeks over whether to recall the on-loan Zander Diamond and Chris Hussey from Northampton and Bury respectively.