MANSFIELD Town were dealt a major Wembley blow today when experienced striker Paul Connor tore a calf two weeks from the FA Trophy final at Wembley.
Stags lost 2-1 at AFC Wimbledon where Conor Higginson also tore a hamstring and Luke Medley left the field with a tight hamstring.
So now, at best, Stags will have a Medley/Danny Mitchley partnership at Wembley although players are dropping left, right and centre, with so many games being played, Stags back in action at home to Gateshead on Monday.
Boss Duncan Russell said: “It looks like Paul has a calf tear and Conor has torn a hamstring so both must now be extremely doubtful for the rest of the season.
“Conor can’t play at Wembley as he’s cup-tied but Paul would be a big miss. It’s not looking good. And we have another game on Monday.
“Luke came off as he was standing holding his hamstring too and if I had gambled on leaving him on we might have seen him suffer a worse injury.
“It has been difficult with so many games. Players are having days off, resting and having ice baths – all we can do. But they are not getting any real time to recover. When you go into games with fatigued muscles they will tear.”
Russell paid tribute to the Dons, saying: “They are a great footballing side. They are a joy to watch to be honest.
“Their manager said afterwards how we had been difficult to break down as we defended so resolutely.
“We lost two strikers and we really are now down to bare bones.
“I tried to give Louis Briscoe the rest he needed today and didn’t want to play him at all but ended up having to put him on.
“I was really pleased with the effort and I think we deserved something out of the game. But it didn’t go that way.
“Wimbledon play great football, have great movement and press the ball well in the right areas of the pitch.
“We have lost to a very good team but it’s a shame we couldn’t hold onto a point.”
He added: “We might have tested their keeper a bit more but when the ball went up top we had no one who could hold onto it.
“If you give possession away early time and time again against a team like that you will get punished. It took its toll in the end.
“But I was disappointed we conceded both from set pieces. That’s what makes me angry as we could have taken a really good scalp here today but, as has happened all season, we couldn’t defend set pieces.”
Goalscorer Tyrone Thompson said: “I had a photo shoot with my sponsor before the Grimsby game on Tuesday and he asked me why I didn’t shoot more.
“So today I thought I would have a go if I got the chance and luckily for me it went in.
“Hopefully that goes some way to making up for my own goal at Hayes. The boys have been reminding me about that so I hope this one gets as many hits (on YouTube) as my own goal has!
“It was disappointing to lose as we really wanted to get something out of this one.
“They had a lot of the ball but we defended solidly. They are a strong side and played a diamond which you have to learn to deal with.”