BARNSLEY could be without influential midfielder David Perkins for as long as six weeks.
Perkins has missed the Reds’ last three matches with the knee injury which he picked up in the first half of the club’s 2-0 home win against Portsmouth last month.
Reds boss Keith Hill had hoped the former Rochdale and Colchester ace would only be out for about a fortnight, but speaking exclusively to The Star he revealed: “Perks’ injury is worse than we feared.
“It’s unlikely he’s going to be back before the next five to six weeks.
“It’s a bombshell to be honest, we just didn’t expect it but he’s had a scan and his knee injury was worse than we first thought.
“He’s got to wear a knee brace now for a few weeks, so we’ll have to hope he recovers as quickly as possible.”
But Hill admitted that with Perkins sidelined he would have “no worries” about giving teenager Paul Digby another chance in the midfield.
Academy scholar Digby, aged 17, made his full debut at home to Birmingham last month and didn’t look out of place against the Championship promotion-chasers.
“I’ve got no fear of playing Diggers in midfield,” said Hill. “I can’t flog him because he’s a young lad and got a long way to go - and he understands that.
“It’s about business at the end of the day. I’ve got my business to do which is securing our Championship status, but depending on what match it is Diggers might get more chances.
“He’s a big lad, but he’s still got to grow into his body and he came be a little ungainly at times, but he’s a real talent and we’ve got to look after him.”
And with winger Jim O’Brien still out with a groin injury, Hill said he would consider using Academy scholars Reuben Noble-Lazarus and Alastair Taylor if he needed to: “I’ve got a problem on the wing with Jim being out so we’ve got to look at all the options available to us,” said Hill.
“We’ve brought David Cotterill in, but he’s still getting his match fitness so Reuben and Alastair could get their chances depending on the enormity of the game.”
The Reds host Nottingham Forest tomorrow afternoon at Oakwell as they look to bounce back from successive Championship defeats.
And Hill has more injuries headaches with defender Bobby Hassell (knee) and midfielder Nathan Doyle (calf) both still sidelined with injury.
“Bobby’s injury hasn’t recovered as quickly as we’d hoped, so he’s still out and Nathan was due to see a specialist for a scan to see about his injury, so it’s needs must at the minute,” he said.
“But these injuries present opportunities for the new players like David Cotterill and Stephen Dawson to come in and do a job.”
Forest have won their last two league fixtures and Hill knows his side will face a tough test.
“They’re [Forest] playing well and have got threats all over the pitch, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”