Bristol Rovers skipper Garry Kenneth ruled out for rest of the season
Bristol Rovers boss John Ward may be forced into signing another defender after losing skipper Garry Kenneth for the rest of the season.
Kenneth was withdrawn before half-time in the 2-0 defeat at the hands of Gillingham on Saturday after twisting his knee and was referred to a specialist this morning to find out the full extent of the damage.
Ward predicted that he would be without the Scotland international for 'quite a while' and his worst fears were realised this evening when scan results confirmed that Kenneth had damaged his anterior cruciate ligament. He will go under the knife on Friday before beginning a nine-month period of rehabilitation to leave Ward without a right-footed senior central defender within his current squad.
The manager says signing a senior striker before Saturday's trip to face Fleetwood Town remains a top priority, but may now also have to dip into the transfer market for another defender in addition to the capture of Mark McChrystal last week.
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"I've got to have a good look at that because Garry won't play again this season," Ward said.
"I had a feeling that it was pretty serious because the early indications were that there was a quite a problem with the knee. It's a massive blow for us and even more so for Garry. He wanted to go straight back on the pitch after sustaining the injury on Saturday because that is the type of character he is and we all wish him a speedy recovery.
"The priority for me still remains the acquisition of a senior striker to add a bit of experience in that area. I'm hoping to get things done over the next day or two because ideally we'd like to have a face or two on board and training with us before we travel up to Fleetwood on Friday.
"I've been pleased with our recent acquisitions and the desire they have shown to fight for our cause. I need to be certain that those I do bring in are here for Bristol Rovers Football Club and not solely for themselves."
Kenneth joins an already significant list of senior players unavailable to Ward for the foreseeable future.
Matt Harrold and Matt Gill have already both been ruled out for the rest of the season, whilst defender Adam Virgo and goalkeeper Scott Bevan also remain sidelined.
Ward, however, will be boosted by the expected returns of striker David Clarkson and Jim Paterson for the trip to Highbury on Saturday.
"We are missing a lot of important players at the moment, but I don't want to dwell on that," said Ward.
"These things happen and there is no point in us looking for some sort of sympathy vote. The players are out and that is that. There is nothing I can do about it. It is a challenge for us and the young players we have here will have to step up to the plate pretty quickly.
"It is an opportunity for them because the chances of me bringing in another five or six new players are scarce to say the least. We have a financial fair play rule to adhere to and that doesn't take in to account the injured players.
"Something like 40 per cent of our budget remains on the treatment table and the Football League doesn't take that into consideration. That is a little bit harsh, but those are the rules and I am fine with that."
Rovers, meanwhile, slipped back to the foot of the division following Saturday's 2-0 reverse and face a difficult run of games in January.
The match at Fleetwood is followed by games against another two promotion-chasing sides in the shape of Exeter City and Rotherham United before February begins with a clash against fellow relegation strugglers Barnet at the Memorial Stadium.
"We will certainly be tested in this period of little matches because they are all against sides in and around the promotion shake-up," said Ward.
"We gave a decent account of ourselves against Gillingham on Saturday and if we can do the same against Fleetwood, I'll be happy with that."