Plymouth Argyle could be 10 players down for trophy second round tie
PLYMOUTH Argyle could be without as many as 10 players for their Johnstone's Paint Trophy second round tie against Aldershot Town at Home Park tonight (7pm).
Manager Carl Fletcher has been working around the clock to try to bolster the defensive options in his severely depleted squad.
Fletcher is hoping to complete a loan signing before the game against Aldershot after making a number of inquiries over the past couple of days.
Regardless of whether the Pilgrims boss is successful or not, 18-year-old Jamie Richards seems set to make his first team debut.
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Richards, a former apprentice at Home Park, is one of only three defenders who are available to Fletcher for the JPT tie, with the other two being Durrell Berry and Curtis Nelson.
Argyle captain Darren Purse is suspended while his regular centre-back partner Maxime Blanchard (concussion) is one of six players ruled out by injury.
Also on the casualty list are Warren Feeney, Ross Jenkins (both groin), Jamie Lowry (ankle), Robbie Williams (stomach) and Paul Wotton (back).
Onismor Bhasera is away on international duty with Zimbabwe while the loan spells of Alex MacDonald from Burnley and Guy Madjo from Aldershot have both ended.
Fletcher would not reveal whether Argyle were close to extending the stays of MacDonald and Madjo.
He did admit, however, the unavailability of Blanchard, Purse and Williams was 'a bit of an issue for us' defensively, but promised the Pilgrims would 'just get on with it'.
Williams has played regularly over recent weeks, including in the 2-1 home League Two defeat by AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, despite a stomach muscle problem.
Fletcher said: "He has had it for about the last four weeks. We have been keeping him out of training.
"He has had some muscle strains in his stomach. We have had it scanned and are waiting for the results back on that so we know for sure."
Fletcher had his 'fingers crossed' a loan deal for a defender could be done in time for tonight.
He said: "We spent all Sunday and all yesterday, non-stop, trying to find someone.
"It's quite frustrating at times because you have targets and for whatever reason they can't do it, or they won't come, or we can't afford them, or their clubs want to keep them there. Things like that."
Richards has been an unused substitute on four occasions for Argyle, including the game against Wimbledon on Saturday.
"He has come through the youth and been here for a fair few years," said Fletcher. "He's a left-sided defender.
"He trains every day and works hard. It will be a good test for him."
Fletcher must decide whether to give goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin his Argyle debut against Aldershot.
Gilmartin signed as a free agent from Watford in July but has yet to play for the first team, partly because of the form of Jake Cole and also due to a knee injury.
Asked about the chances of extending the loan spells of MacDonald and Madjo, Fletcher replied: "I will let you know but, hopefully, we should be able to get it done."