Midfielder Crooks ruled out of Checkatrade Trophy date with Fulham Under-21s

Matt Crooks suffered an ankle injury in Saturday's win over Crewe Alexandra (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Matt Crooks suffered an ankle injury in Saturday's win over Crewe Alexandra (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Matt Crooks has been ruled out of Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy clash with Fulham Under-21s, but manager Keith Curle is hopeful the midfielder could be fit in time for the FA Cup first round trip to Lincoln City on Saturday.

The influential Crooks was taken off due to an anke injury suffered towards the end of the first half of Saturday’s 2-0 Sky Bet League Two win over Crewe Alexandra.

There is no chance the player will be available for the game against the Cottagers youngsters, but Curle said of Crooks: “He is responding.

“He has been in to see Nacho (head physio) today (Monday), and although he is not going to be available for Tuesday, we will find out later in the week, probably Wednesday or Thursday, how he has responded to treatment.”

Crooks’ unavailability is a blow for Curle, who is also without fellow central midfielders John-Joe O’Toole and Sam Foley through suspension.

With that trio missing, there are going to be opportunities for others to step in and make their mark, and that is exactly what Curle wants, although he wouldn’t give any hints as to who would be handed their chance.

“The important thing when you walk into a football club is that it is about a squad,” said the Cobblers boss.

“What I said when I first walked in that I wanted to create a team ethic within the squad, which means there has to be an understanding within the squad of what the fundamentals are, and what we want in the changing room.

“Then no matter what team performs, the whole squad have bought into the ethics of what we are trying to bring to the club.

“When we go out, and it is a professional, competitive game, then the same platforms are always in place.

“So there may be an opportunity for different personnel, but the ethics and fundamentals will be exactly the same.”

Meanwhile, of the quintet of players who have been out injured for the past few weeks, Curle also hinted that some of them are very close to a playing return.

Ash Taylor, Shay Facey, Leon Barnett, Dean Bowditch and Junior Morias have all been out of action, but Curle said: “There are a few of them now that are field-based, which means they are in the latter stages of their recovery.

“It is then always about getting the timing right of when to re-introduce them.

“Sometimes it is a case of needs must, sometimes you take an educated gamble, and other times players are ready, but because other people are playing well they can’t get back in the team.

“The ideal scenario is you are able to play your best 11 at will, and you will have 22 or 23 players always available, but that has never been the case.

“I think we have players unavailable this week, but we have players who are performing at a very high level and winning games for the football club.

“It is difficult, and it is not meant to be detremental to anybody at all, but my focus is always on the players who are available.”