IF Fleetwood Town do have a new manager in time for Saturday’s home game against Southend, his first team selection will be taxing one.
As the club’s injury crisis refuses to abate, Town could go into this top of the table clash with only one fit centre-half ... and he hasn’t played a league game for the club since January.
Rob Atkinson was recalled from his loan spell at Accrington Stanley last week after Youl Mawene broke a bone in his foot.
Town’s other regular centre-half, skipper Steve McNulty, struggled through Saturday’s FA Cup defeat by Aldershot with a calf problem.
Nathan Pond and Kieran Charnock are on half-season loans at Grimsby and Macclesfield respectively and cannot be recalled.
Midfielder Alex Marrow was switched to the back four on Saturday and Alan Goodall could potentially play in the centre of defence.
In his last press conference before his sacking, Micky Mellon said: “At the moment we only have one fit centre-half at the football club.
“If I could have recalled the other two I would have done but the terms of the loan mean we can’t do that. It is another problem to deal with.”
It means that whoever is in charge, 25-year-old Atkinson looks certain to make his League Two bow for the club against Southend.
He made 13 appearances in two months with Stanley, though his only match for Town this season was in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Rochdale and his last league appearance for the Highbury club was a goalscoring one in the victory at Forest Green last January.
But Atkinson is raring to go. He said: “It’s good to be back among the lads and hopefully I’ll be back playing on Saturday.
“I’ve had a good couple of months at Accrington and got my match fitness, but I’m contracted to Fleetwood and I want to be playing here. It was important to go out to a club in the same league and playing to the same standard. It was a good experience for me, but it feels like I’ve never been away and I’ve fitted straight back in.”
His Fleetwood comeback has been delayed a week because he was cup-tied last Saturday, Mellon having allowed him to play for Stanley at AFC Fylde in the first round of the FA Cup.
But after all the football he’s missed at Fleetwood, another seven-day wait won’t hurt too much. He added: “My injury last season came at a bad time and I haven’t really featured since.
“But if Macca (McNulty) is fit it will be good to be back alongside him. Hopefully we can hit the ground running and carry on from the start of last season, when we had quite a good partnership going. Macca has formed a good partnership with Youl this season but injuries happen.”
There will certainly be no time for Atkinson to ease his way back in gently, with Saturday’s match against fifth-placed Southend followed seven days later by a trip to League Two leaders Gillingham.
But that game will certainly hold no fears for the defender: “I played against Gillingham a couple of weeks ago for Accrington and was man of the match. We drew 1-1 and were unlucky not to win.
“They are very direct and Martin Allen always gets them fired up and in your faces, but there’s enough quality in this side to beat them.”
One piece of good news for Town on the injury front is the return of striker Steven Gillespie, who felt no ill effects after his half- hour against Aldershot
David Ball, who has been Fleetwood’s lone striker for the last month, was relieved to have Gillespie back.
He said: “I’ve been working hard and I think I’ve bit putting in some good performances.
“But I think having Gilly back will help us a lot. He’s got goals in him as well. You saw that when he came on.
“The link-up play is there and hopefully it will give us a lift.
“I’ve been working my socks off . Hopefully he can come in to help me out and we can get some goals and lift ourselves out of this run.”
Rob Atkinson was talking to DAVID MITCHELL