IT’S anything but a happy Christmas for Fleetwood Town defender Paul Linwood.
In the run-up to Town’s vital derby clash at home to Southport on Boxing Day, the tidings are certainly not those of comfort and joy.
Linwood has had a second operation on a knee, which means a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Manager Micky Mellon said: “It is looking like Paul will be out for three months, which is bad news for him and for us.”
To cover the gap left by this setback, Fleetwood expect to tie up a permanent deal for Morecambe defender Kieran Charnock early in the New Year.
There is some encouraging news regarding broken ankle victim Rob Atkinson, who has been out with a broken ankle.
He has started running again as he battles his way back to fitness and Fleetwood’s bid to get into the Football League, which is growing in momentum.
Influential midfielder Anthony Barry should be able to return some time late in February or early-March.
He has suffered a dislocated knee, aggravated by a cartilage problem.
Mellon said: “It is a huge blow to have been without him.”
More immediately, another defender Nathan Pond has been given the go-ahead to play against Southport, having shrugged off a knock.
Jamie Milligan could well figure after recent concerns over a knee injury.
Officials at Highbury are expecting a crowd of around 3,000 for the Southport match - such matches always provide a highlight and are eagerly awaited.
There will be a quick return at Haig Avenue on New Year’s Day
This year’s clashes have assumed a major importance, as Southport are third in the table, one place behind Fleetwood, who are going neck-and-neck with Wrexham at the summit of the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Mellon said: “It is a local derby and my players are champing at the bit - they can’t wait for it because these are the type of games you want to be involved in.
“I am looking forward to it as much as the players - these are two teams competing at the right end of the table.”