JAMES Baker faces at least five weeks on the sidelines with a broken arm sustained during AFC Sudbury’s 3-1 defeat at Maldon and Tiptree on Tuesday.
Manager Chris Tracey has admitted it is a ‘massive blow’ to lose the side’s top goalscorer for the past two seasons until late September after he collided with the perimeter fence behind the goal at Park Drive.
The extent of the injury to last season’s players’ and manager’s player of the year was confirmed after he was taken to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford straight from the game.
But after bringing in experienced striker Dave Bryant from Braintree Town, who scored 17 goals for Conference South outfit Boreham Wood last season, ahead of what he described as a ‘bitterly disappointing’ defeat on Tuesday, Tracey is confident his large squad hosts enough options to cover Baker’s extended absence.
“It is a big blow but we have Leon (Antoine) who scored Saturday,” he said. “I know he missed a good chance Tuesday, but he has done well, works very hard and is strong in the air – that is not to say he will play every game though.”
Bryant, who Tracey describes as a ‘very hard-working player’ started in a three-man attack with Baker and Lee Boylan at Maldon and Tiptree.
He became the club’s 13th signing of the summer, following on from 33-year-old midfielder Ben Smith putting pen-to-paper in time to make his debut in Saturday’s disappointing 3-1 defeat to Cheshunt.
Tracey, who says the former Arsenal trainnee is a ‘massive signing’ with more than 100 appearances in the Football League with Hereford United, Shrewsbury Town, Crawley Town and Aldershot Town admits he will have to reduce his squad by seven players – from 24 to 17 – in a week’s time.
Following two successive 3-1 defeats to open their league campaign, his players will have just Saturday’s home FA Cup preliminary tie with fellow Ryman Division One North side Ilford (3pm) and Bank Holiday Monday’s league game away at Harlow Town (3pm), providing there is no cup replay, to prove their worth.
But for now, Tracey is not panicking with the shaky start.
“They are a good bunch of lads and good enough to put it right,” he said. “We have been in both games for long periods but not capitalised on our dominance, but I am sure we will be fine.
“I know the supporters are disappointed after all the hype and calibre of players we have brought in but it is early days and let’s have a look after 10 games then questions can be asked, but I’m sure they won’t need to.”
Meanwhile, new defender Bradley Thomas, suspended for the opening three games, is set to join Baker for an extended stay on the sidelines while he waits for a hernia operation on the NHS, with for the former Grays Athletic player’s abdominal injury worse than first thought.