Cobblers sweat on the fitness of key man for Oxford United encounter

Keith Curle.Keith Curle.
Keith Curle.
Experienced defender 'nursing' a muscle injury

Cobblers are sweating on the fitness of key defender Alan Sheehan ahead of Saturday’s Sky Bet League One fixture with Oxford United.

The 34-year-old centre-back missed four games with injury before Christmas but returned to help the Cobblers take four points from home fixtures against Gillingham and Sunderland either side of New Year’s Day.

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However, he was again absent when Town lost to MK Dons on Tuesday night and it turns out he was not merely rested for the EFL Trophy tie.

“Alan has had a slight reaction to a muscle that we’ve been nursing,” revealed Curle, whose side have lost only two of the 10 games that Sheehan has started this season.

“He’s trained with it and rested it. It’s just a case of getting that balance right but he’s an experienced player that wants to play.

“But he also knows that we have a bank of games coming up and we need him available for that so if he’s not available this weekend, he will be doing the work and preparing for the game after.

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“He’s an important part and an integral part of what we’re trying to build at the club.”

Joseph Mills could take Sheehan’s place in the back three after he returned from three months out to start against MK Dons.

But goalkeeper Steve Arnold may miss out on Saturday after injuring himself in the warm-up on Tuesday, with Jonathan Mitchell coming into the team and young academy player Dylan Berry called up to the bench.

“It was good to have Joseph back,” Curle added. “The plan was to give him only an hour but it was pleasing to see him back. He slotted in on the left side in place of Alan Sheehan and was one of the positives for us.

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“With Steve Arnold, his back seized up and as you can imagine for a goalkeeper, with their movements and dynamics, we needed to be careful and we didn’t want to take the risk.

“It came 30 minutes before kick-off so that was a little bit of a disruption but Mitch came in and did well. He didn’t have much chance with the goals.”

Lloyd Jones, also not involved on Tuesday, and Danny Rose, who came off at half-time, should both be available for the visit of Oxford.

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