TRANMERE manager Ronnie Moore fears he could lose another key member of his table topping side when a specialist delivers a verdict later this week on the injury troubling Ben Gibson.
The 19-year-old centre back, who is on a long-term youth loan from Middlesbrough, has been one of the star performers in the Rovers team taking League One by surprise.
However, Gibson has been struggling with a strain in the thigh/groin/stomach area for a few weeks and was forced to miss the 2-2 draw against Portsmouth last Saturday because of the problem.
Moore said: “Ben is going to see a specialist on Wednesday. No one seems to know what the problem is at the present time so we have to adhere to what Middlesbrough want.
“Until we know what it is, the boy can’t play.”
Rovers are concerned that Gibson may need surgery and his long-term absence would be a heavy blow at a time when other influential players, such as midfielder James Wallace, striker Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and winger Abdulai Bell-Baggie are on the long-term casualty list.
“Ben would be a big loss,” Moore said. “We’ve had to put up with Akpa Akpro and Bell-Baggie being missing for a while. The injury to Wallace and then Ben on top of that, have come at the wrong time for us.
“If it is serious with Ben then we will probably have to look at bringing someone else into the squad when the transfer window opens in January.”
Gibson joined Tranmere at the start of the season on a loan originally scheduled to run until the beginning of January.
Middlesbrough have indicated they are prepared to extend the arrangement, noting the youngster’s impressive development at Prenton Park.
Gibson, who has played just one Championship game for Middlesbrough, quickly established himself as Tranmere’s first choice centre back, forging an effective partnership with Ash Taylor.
He currently boasts 25 senior appearances with Rovers to add to just over 20 first-team games played in loan spells with Plymouth Argyle and York City last season.
Moore, anticipating the possibility of losing Gibson ahead of the Christmas programme, recruited West Brom prospect Donervorn Daniels on a youth loan at the end of last month.
The 18-year-old is yet to play a senior game for either parent club West Bromwich Albion or Tranmere although he’s attracting the interest of Premier League scouts.
Daniels was on the substitutes’ bench last weekend when 40-year-old veteran Ian Goodison and Ash Taylor formed Rovers’ central defensive partnership against Portsmouth, in Gibson’s absence.
The lengthening casualty list at Prenton Park is causing Moore to take precautions ahead of Saturday’s visit to promotion favourites Sheffield United.
The manager says he wants to give left back Paul Black match practice to build up his fitness and sharpness following a lengthy layoff with a thigh injury. But he is reluctant to risk Black in a reserve team game against Bury today, in case he takes a knock.
Moore said: “Once Paul has some sort of fitness we will have the option of playing him at left back so we can push Zoumana Bakayogo further forward into the wide midfield role.
“Paul needs games but I’m stopping him playing for the reserves at Bury because I don’t want him to pick up a knock. I can’t take chances with him. He will get a full week’s training and we will have to do it that way.”