The injury verdict is in on Rotherham United's Shane Ferguson

SHANE Ferguson is facing another spell on the sidelines after breaking down just three games into his comeback following repeated rounds of hernia surgery.

The left winger, who had been out of action for nine months, came off in last week's Championship clash at Coventry City where he lasted for only 33 minutes of the 5-0 loss.

He has had an appointment with a specialist and, with only nine matches of the season remaining, no date has been set on a possible return.

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“Bless Fergie, he's had a rough season,” boss Leam Richardson said. “He should have trained and played more than he has done.

“I feel for him. He's a great guy and he worked so hard to get back. But he's had a bit of a setback. We're not really sure on a length of time for his absence.

“He's gone back to see a specialist over an ongoing problem.”

The 32-year-old is out of contract in the summer and may have kicked his last ball for the Millers, although the club remain hopeful he will be fit again before the close of the campaign.

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Since the end of last term's second-tier survival mission he has undergone a trio of operations on hernia-related issues.

Richardson confirmed that the latest blow is related to the same complaint. “It's something within the mechanism of it, yeah,” the head coach said.

Ferguson came on as a substitute against Watford on February 17 and was then named in the starting 11 for the first time since last May in the derby against Sheffield Wednesday on March 2.

Richardson would have preferred not to have started the Northern Ireland international four days later at the CBS Arena but was short of options because of Rotherham's long injury list.

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“You're damned if you do, damned if you don't,” the boss said. “He played on the Saturday and was eager to make himself available again on the Tuesday. We had planned minutes for him but, obviously, he didn't get through them.”

Ferguson won League One promotion and Papa Johns Trophy silverware in his first year at AESSEAL New York Stadium after leaving Millwall in 2021 and then played a part in last term's Championship safety push.

He is likely to be released in the summer but Richardson has his fingers crossed that there will be more appearances in a Millers shirt before then.

“I hope not,” he said when asked if the wide man's season could be over. “He's been a really good player for the club for a long time.”

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Meanwhile, Rotherham have begun the clearing of the decks by parting company with Daniel Ayala, the defender they brought in as an emergency free-agent signing last October.

The centre-half suffered a serious achilles injury in after seven appearances and was omitted from the 25-man squad list submitted to the EFL at the end of January.

Club and player have mutually agreed a termination of the 33-year-old’s contract.

“It's about planning for next season,” said Richardson. “The club needs a big re-set. The intensity of the level caught up with him.”