Cliftonville boss Eddie Patterson is left with the most unlikely of selection headaches for this evening’s Setanta Sports Cup clash with Dungannon Swifts.
Despite bolstering his squad with a number of new additions in the summer, the Reds manager is down to the bare bones after a month of watching one player after the other hobble off injured.
Liam Fleming is out with a viral infection, while Ronan Scannell picked up a knock in the 3-1 defeat to Lisburn Distillery on August 26 and Francis Murphy was injured against Glentoran the following weekend.
Last Saturday, Ciaran Boyd and David Wells were forced off in the first-half at Newry City and, two days ago, Patterson saw another three players join the casualties.
Conor Downey (groin) and Barry Holland (dead leg) barely lasted 45 minutes between them in the 2-2 draw with Dungannon, while defender David McAlinden was also forced off early and Patterson admits that tonight’s return showdown with the Swifts will stretch his squad to the limit.
“I don’t know if I even have a team,” he says. “It’s just one injury after another at the minute and, even though neither of us can qualify for the next round of the Setanta Cup, both Cliftonville and Dungannon will want to win tonight because that’s natural, you want to do the best you can.
“I had always intended to give fringe players a run-out in this game but I don’t really have much choice about that now.”
The Cliftonville boss is likely to hand a start to son Mark Patterson, while Barry Johnston and Vincent Sweeney will continue their recuperations from injury with run-outs, while there could also be a debut for young Paul Alexander, signed from Banbridge Town in the summer.
George McMullan and Kieran O’Connor each netted for the Reds on Saturday with Timmy Adamson and Mark McAllister bagging the respective equalisers and Dungannon boss Harry Fay was satisfied with the outcome.
“We had to come from behind twice and showed a lot of spirit to do that so I’m happy in that respect,” he said.
“I think we probably look at this game similarly to Cliftonville because, while we feel we could have won it and weren’t happy with the goals we conceded, I’m sure Eddie Patterson’s saying the same.”