Stephen Baxter confirmed the worst fears of Crusaders fans when he admitted Gary McCutcheon will miss the IRN-BRU League Cup final.
McCutcheon pulled up with a muscle injury late in the 2-1 Irish Cup win over Linfield and he wil be sidelined for at least two weeks.
The cruel twist of fate means the deadly Scot will not be unleashed on Cliftonville at Windsor Park on Saturday.
“Gary’s out of the game,” said Crues boss Baxter. “He’s not going to be available to us. The injury could keep him out for two to four weeks depending on how bad it is.
“It’s very unfortunate for him. Gary has been playing so well in recent days but that’s football. That’s why you have 21 players and not 11.
“You need various players to come in when required and they will do. Our team won 5-1 on Saturday and you would have thought with a comprehensive victory like that we didn’t do anything different but we made three changes for last night’s game and that’s just how you have to do it.
“You have to freshen things up sometimes and now we have to motor on without Gary. It’s a big loss but I don’t grumble too much about losing a player. You have to ask someone to stand in and perform that role.”
McCutcheon’s injury is a double whammy for Baxter after keeper Sean O’Neill was ruled out with a dislocated shoulder.
“A successful football team is all about players,” added Baxter. “Having the right blend of players is important. We have lost arguably the best goalkeeper in the league for the rest of the season but we couldn’t simply sit back and accept that.
“We had to sign two very capable goalkeepers and we have done that.”