AFC Sudbury manager Chris Tracey has been rocked by the news captain Sam Clarke and striker James Baker face another six weeks on the sidelines.
The duo, both suffering from fractured bones, were expected to be back as soon as next week, but specialists have said neither will be able to play again until mid-November at the earliest.
Baker, the side’s top scorer for the past two seasons, has had his wrist put back in plaster, while midfield dynamo Clarke’s arm has now been put in a brace as it hadn’t showed signs of recovery.
But Tracey believes they are still on course for promotion via the play-offs, or even the title.
That boast was made even after their humiliating 10-1 Suffolk FA Premier Cup exit at rivals Bury Town on Tuesday night after injuries and unavailability forced him to start three young reserve players.
“We just need to keep picking up the odd point here and there until we can get the other players back in the side,” he said.
AFC have recorded three successive 1-1 draws in the league, the latest at home to previous league leaders Potters Bar Town on Saturday, to leave them 10th, four points off the play-offs and seven points off the top spot with a game in hand.
“We still have a squad and side that is more than good enough to get in the play-offs certainly, and maybe, if we went on a decent run, win the division,” he added.
“But we will need to get those players fit and unfortunately, in all the years I have been at Sudbury, I don’t think I have ever known an injury list as long as we have got at the moment.
“Having said that, discounting Tuesday, in the last two performances the togetherness and team spirit is magnificent and we should have won them.”
Striker Lee Boylan, recovering from torn ankle ligaments suffered against Grays Athletic on September 1, came on for the remaining seven minutes of Tuesday’s cup defeat, a loss Tracey said he was always prepared to write off as ‘a nothing competition in the scheme of the season’.
But the news on Baker and Clarke has left him more concerned.
“We were hoping they would be back playing next week and they are big setbacks because if you looked at the spine of the team that is your captain and probably the best strikeforce in that division (with Boylan),” he said.
Boylan looks unlikely to be risked at 17th-placed Waltham Forest on Saturday (3pm), who play at Ilford’s Cricketfield Stadium, a pitch Tracey rates as the worst in the league.
Newly-appointed assistant manager Michael Shinn and defender James Smith will face fitness tests while Bradley Thomas is set to return.
AFC host former manager Mark Morseley’s Ryman Premier side Leiston on Tuesday in the League Cup second round (7.45pm) with Tracey anticipating putting out a similar side as fielded against Bury.