DONCASTER Rovers defender Mustapha Dumbuya has spent the last few weeks kicking his heels rather than a ball.
The 23 year-old full-back will again be missing in tomorrow's Championship game against Ipswich Town at Portman Road, where Rovers will be looking to pick up the pieces following a 3-0 league defeat by Reading last weekend and a 5-0 midweek beating by Wolves in the FA Cup.
"It's the first serious injury of my footballing career and It's frustrating not to be playing but I hope to be back within a month," said Dumbuya, who tore a knee cartilage in the defeat at Crystal Palace.
"I didn't know what I'd done at the time and I finished the game, though there were only a few minutes left," he recalled.
A scan later showed a sizeable tear of the cartilage and Dumbuya was booked in for surgery."
The injury has put a temporary hold on what was turning out to be a dream season for the pacy Londoner, who won back-to-back Supporters' Club player of the month awards.
"I was pleased with how things were going," he said. "I was happy with my form and I was playing regularly. I like the way the team plays with the full-backs allowed to push forward. I started off as a midfielder so I'm happy either pushing on from the back or playing a wing-back role and helping to set up goals.
"I haven't scored a goal yet but I'm hoping to do so before too long."
Dumbuya can operate equally well either side of the two centre-backs.
With George Friend now back playing, and right-back James Chambers recently having made his long-awaited return following a knee operation in the summer, Dumbuya admits that there is going to be a lot of competition for places in the side, but has no problems with that.
"That's what you want at a club," he says. "You need strength in depth because we've got a lot of games coming up and you are always going to pick up injuries and suspensions."
Although there is still a long way to go before the end of the campaign, Dumbuya must be in the running for the most improved player award at the club.
"Because I came straight from non-League football during the summer, I always knew that last season was going to be a learning curve," he said. "I only started three games on the bench but I improved training with the lads every day and I was a lot better player at the start of the season than I was 12 months earlier."
With Rovers losing interest in the FA Cup at Molineux, they only have the league to focus on. Although they are currently languishing in the bottom half of the table, Dumbuya firmly believes that they are more than capable of challenging for a play-off spot.
"We are only eight points off the play-offs and we've got two games in hand over a lot of the teams above us," he said. "Hopefully we can get a result against Ipswich tomorrow. They've just got a new manager which might make things a little more difficult for us as their players will no doubt be looking to impress him.
"But they've also got a Carling Cup semi-final second leg tie against Arsenal in midweek so they might have one eye on that."
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