Tuesday 5th April 2006
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Compare the glee of Sunday the 26th March to the disarray of the 2nd April. In just a week, the emotions of Bracknell Manics have taken a noticeable nosedive as injuries ravage a squad, who up until Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Wokingham United, had been playing at the top of their game.

Firstly the firsts. Already weakened by Tim Roake's absence through a broken ankle, first team manager Nikos Patsalides had also been mindful of new striker Brent Marais' hamstring trouble. The frontman had scored 5 in 4 games, much needed in light of Barry O'Connell's absence through work, but recently the South African had been unable to last the 90 minutes. Despite Roake's misfortune and Marais' niggling injury, the Manics squad was at near full-strength. The defence had been keeping the odd clean sheet, and goals had been plentiful at the other end, so form was on the rise.

"The reason we're doing well, is because at last we've had a settled squad" Patsalides was quoted as saying recently. He spoke too soon. Gareth Jones, Manics in-form midfielder, sat out training with a knee injury picked up in the semi final vs Crown Royals and would play no part in the weekend fixture. As the players arrived for what was in effect a 4th place battle with Wokingham United on Sunday morning, they were greeted by more bad news. Firstly Mark Robertson, top scorer for the past two seasons, hobbled in with an ankle injury sustained playing for his Saturday team. Patsalides also broke the news that midfield enforcer Aaron Goddard was out too; another player carrying an ankle knock, this one from a work fixture.

The team were patched up, but efficient. They went out on Sunday determined to avenge the 1-0 defeat earlier in the season. However, 15 minutes in, Simon Blay became yet another casualty. Fouled in his own half after playing the ball, the red-haired full-back tore ankle ligaments and looks a major doubt for the rest of the season. As the game wore on, Gary Sarney picked up a dead leg. With the unfit Patsalides (groin) the only remaining sub, Sarney had to play through the pain. Defeated for the first time since Januarys defeat to Priestwood, Manics' woe did not stop there. As Sunday 2nd April ended, it became apparent that Jason Graaff and Marcel Hollenstein had too picked up knocks, Graaff his knee and Hollenstein his ankle. So, with as many as 10 players facing treatment, and goalkeeper James Robinson appealing against suspension, the Manics first team face an April stretched to the limit.

The Reserves have problems of their own. Some of their more senior players are out, and have been noticable by their absence of late. Chris Wilson has broken ribs and is another couple of weeks away from a start. Damian Statham has a knee ligament injury, while Manic legend Andy Impey struggles on with his persistent shoulder agony. Lee "Fish" Wilcox made a welcome return from his travels, but it didn't take long for the cold English weather to play havoc with his hamstring. Poor Alan Matthias experienced another setback with his knee injury and would be best advised to sit out the season. To top all these ailments, comes skipper and legend Brian Judge, who has broken his fingers. The life and soul of the Manic cause, his presence will be surely missed.

Of all the injuries, one may make you smile. For John Hayward was attacked by a traffic cone and missed Sundays game against Bracknell Wanderers as he was getting a head wound stitched up. You may laugh as hopefully the big man will be back for this week's game.

As the reserves splutter to promotion after promising so much, and the first team face a run-in without key personnel, Manics chairman and secretary Nikos Patsalides must be wondering how and why this is so.

For last Sunday glasses were being clinked in celebration, this week the players were drowning their sorrows. But with promotion likely for the reserves, and a cup final on the 5th May for the firsts, this season still carries hope yet.

By Simon Oakbutter


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