ROTHERHAM United are facing up to the prospect of being without new boy Trevor Clarke until October at the earliest.
There were fears the Republic of Ireland youth international had suffered long-term damage when he was stretchered off in his first Millers outing, a private friendly against a Newcastle United Under-23s side, on the day he signed from Shamrock Rovers late last month.
He was expected to return within six weeks when scans revealed his knee injury was less severe than first feared, but that time frame has since been revised.
“The surgeons are saying three months,” said boss Paul Warne. “We're hopeful of getting him back before then.
“It's a slow process. He's walking around in a leg-brace and it's going to take a bit of time. I don't think we'll see him in a Rotherham shirt before October.”
With the 21-year-old left-back out of action and right-back Billy Jones and winger Julien Lamy also sidelined, the Millers had only 17 fit senior professionals available for last Saturday's 1-0 League One win at Burton Albion.
“We've got Trevor injured for a few months, Julien probably back in five weeks and we've got Billy out,” Warne said. “Even with those three back, we've got only 20 pros and one of them is a young lad, Jake (Cooper).”
Lamy is still affected by the leg injury he sustained in the first pre-season friendly, against non-league Parkgate, while Jones hasn't played since hurting his heel a week before the league campaign began.
The defender was running under the supervision of the club's physios late last week but felt a reaction the following day.
Rotherham are in the middle of a two-week rest from league action and Warne said: “The break will be good for him.
“But after that he'll have been out for five or six weeks and then you need a week to get him back in shape. It's a concern."