Defender Joe Mattock faces a race against time to be fit for Rotherham United’s top-of-the-table League One showdown at Shrewsbury Town.
The left-back, who has started every game as the Millers have gone 12 matches unbeaten, came off during Tuesday’s 3-1 home win over Oxford United with a tight hamstring and didn’t train today.
Fourth-placed Rotherham hope he will recover for the trip to the league leaders on Saturday but admit there are no guarantees.
“Joe is touch and go,” manager Paul Warne said. “We’re hoping he will be on the grass tomorrow. We pulled him off on Tuesday as a precaution. If there is any risk, I won’t play him on Saturday.
“He has been a big part of how we play. He gives us great balance. He’s a good attacking left-back and he has a good relationship with (left winger) Joe Newell. I’m hopeful he will be available but I’m not honestly sure whether he will be.”
If Mattock fails to make it, his boss is likely to turn to either Michael Ihiekwe or Ben Purrington as his replacement.
Centre-half Ihiekwe came on for Mattock in the first half against the U’s. Purrington is a natural left-back but wasn’t on Tuesday’s bench and, although he has been fit for weeks after hamstring trouble of his own, hasn’t featured since late September.
Losing Mattock would be a blow. Rotherham have won nine of their last dozen matches and Warne attributes part of that to him being able to field a settled side.
“The team is virtually the same every week at the moment,” he said. “Unfortunately, Joe had to go off the other evening. Joe and Newelly down that left side know exactly what each other are doing. And Fordey (winger Anthony Forde) and Josh (full-back Emmanuel) have played a lot of games together and know what they are doing on the right. There are just partnerships all over the field.”
Rotherham have been performing so well that players of the calibre of wingers Ryan Williams and Jon Taylor, new midfielder Matt Palmer and loan striker Caolan Lavery have had to settle for places on the bench.
“I can take anyone out of the 11 and replace them with someone of similar ability,” Warne said. “It is a nightmare with my subs. I can put any of them on. That is the worst bit of my job at the moment, that I cannot give them more game-time. I am blessed with choices, but that doesn’t help my sleep.”
Shrewsbury are managed by Warne’s former Millers teammate, Paul Hurst, but the pair haven’t spoken in the build-up to the game.