INJURED striker Freddie Ladapo could be back in action for the final push in Rotherham United’s bid for League One promotion.
The 15-goal hot-shot is making good progress after tearing a quad muscle ten days ago and the club are optimistic he will prove his fitness in advance of the last five matches of the season.
There were initial fears that he would miss the rest of the campaign but that concern has now eased.
Because of the international break and a Papa John’s Trophy Final date, the Millers will be without a league fixture for three weeks following this Saturday’s home clash with Shrewsbury Town.
That will allow the 29-year-old to complete much of his rehabilitation without missing third-tier games before returning for a packed 15-day run-in.
“I see Freddie being ready before the end of the season,” said manager Paul Warne, whose team are top of the table and seven points clear of third-placed MK Dons with eight matches to go after beating Lincoln City 2-1 at AESSEAL New York Stadium on Tuesday night.
“Potentially, in the second or third week of April we might have him back. It might be a Freddie goal that gets us where we want to be.”
If Ladapo is given the all-clear when anticipated, he would be in the frame for the Easter fixtures against Ipswich Town and Burton Albion and then encounters with Oxford United, Sunderland and Gillingham.
His presence would be a huge boost for Rotherham as they chase a third climb to the Championship in five years but they will take no risks with him.
“He feels really good at the moment but a muscle injury is weird,” said Warne. “You feel fine walking around, it’s only when you sprint that you think: ‘Oh my god, my leg is going to fall off.’
“We’re hopeful he could be back within a month. However, what I don’t want to do is push too hard, injure him again and then he’s out for the summer. That wouldn’t be right.”
The Sunderland contest scheduled for next Saturday, March 26, has been postponed because the Millers are losing three players to international call-ups in Shane Ferguson (Northern Ireland), Chiedozie Obgebe (Republic of Ireland) and Josh Kayode (Republic of Ireland Under-21s).
The April 2 trip to Portsmouth has fallen victim to Rotherham’s Papa John’s Wembley involvement a day earlier and has been rearranged for Tuesday April 12, three days before the Friday home game with Ipswich Town.
The Sunderland match is likely to take place on the last Tuesday in April.
The Shrews match is ‘Give the Hospice a Hand Day’ when supporters will be asked to make a donation to Rotherham Hospice in return for a pair of red gloves to be worn during the game.
NEW boy Georgie Kelly suffered the injury that cost him his Rotherham United debut in a routine training drill.
The 25-year-old (below), who joined the club in January after being the top scorer in the League of Ireland with Bohemians, had been in line for a first outing in last week’s Papa John’s Trophy semi-final at Hartlepool United.
However, he pulled up lame the day before the clash and could now be out of action for the rest of March.
“We were doing 400-metre runs; not flat out, just at 70 per cent as a warm-up, which isn’t a physical risk really,” manager Paul Warne said.
“Georgie felt his calf tighten up a little bit and because he’d had a calf injury at the end of his season in Ireland (November), we pulled him out and scanned him. He’s got a bit of damage in there.”
The Millers had been gradually bringing Kelly up to speed after beating off competition from fellow League One side Plymouth Argyle to sign him on a three-year deal.
“The physios and fitness lads have been brilliant with him,” Warne said. “All the fans want to see him play but he’s gone from part-time to full-time football and that needs a spell of adjustment.
“It’s more than just full-time football here as well as we place such intense athletic demands on our players. It’s very difficult for his body to suddenly get up every day and it be go, go, go ...”
Warne remains guardedly optimistic that a debut could still happen before the campaign concludes on April 30 even though Rotherham will take their time with the player’s recovery
“Georgie absence might be only two to four weeks, but we can’t afford for him to come back too early and his calf go again,” the boss said.
“We’re going to have to be really cautious and try to get him to the end of the season in a fit state to perform in pre-season.
“I’m hopeful that he can get on the pitch before the end of the season but I won’t be pressuring anyone — that’s not my style anyway — to make it happen.”