BARNSLEY boss Keith Hill is sweating on the fitness of leading scorer Craig Davies ahead of Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated showdown with Birmingham City.
And defender John Stones is definitely out with an ankle injury sustained in Tuesday night’s 2-1 away defeat to Blackburn Rovers as the Reds look to get their first league win on the road this term.
Former Chesterfield marksman Davies picked up a groin strain in training this week and Hill knows he might have to rest his four-goal striker to prevent any risk of a long layoff.
“We’ve got a slight problem with Craig, he’s picked up a bit of a groin strain,” revealed Hill, speaking ahead of the weekend’s Sky-televised 5.20pm Championship clash.
“He’s fit enough to start games and in an ideal world he’d play 90 minutes, but I don’t want to lose him for any length of time. He’s having a good season for us.”
Hill has options with Marlon Harewood ready to step up from the substitute’s bench, but England Under-19 international Stones is out, having limped off in agony on Tuesday after a crunching challenge from Rovers’ midfielder Dickson Etuhu, brother of Reds’ midfielder Kelvin.
“Stonsey’s got severe bruising, it was an horrendous challenge,” added Hill. “Dickson is a good footballer but he probably deserved to get sent-off for that, it was studs-high.”
Bobby Hassell has one game of his three-match ban to serve so Hill admitted he was tempted to play the versatile David Perkins at right-back.
“It’s a disappointment John won’t play so we’ll have to look at the right-back position,” said Hill. “Maybe Perks can slip in there. He’s played right-back for me before. He’s got energy and he can be effective.”
Hill does have other options, with Martin Cranie and Scott Wiseman both accustomed to the position, although Cranie has impressed in central midfielder and so has Wiseman at centre-back.
The Reds have lost all three of their away league matches, conceding 10 goals.
But Hill’s side were unlucky not to at least take a point from Ewood Park in midweek and impressed in a home draw with fancied Blackpool last weekend.
And Hill knows the challenge doesn’t get any easier when the Reds take on the Blues at St Andrews tomorrow evening.
“They’ve got a very good side and a very good management team,” said Hill. “They’ll progressively get stronger and stronger. They’ve got good players to work with, so it’s going to be a difficult task.
“I’ve been encouraged by our performances of late, but it’s important we pick up points.”
Defender Rob Edwards and striker Mido remain sidelined with hamstring injuries, as does winger Toni Silva who, despite featuring for the club’s Under-21 side earlier this week, is a “long way off from coming back” according to Hill.
Skipper Jimmy McNulty is still out with a knee injury, while winger Jim O’Brien has not recovered from the dislocated shoulder he had pinned earlier in the season. However, O’Brien is back training with the squad, albeit non-contact training for the time being.