Hartlepool United have been dealt a major injury blow after captain and top scorer Billy Paynter was ruled out for three months.
Paynter has been ruled out for at least twelve weeks with an Achilles injury, the club had confirmed earlier this week he had a small tear and the worst fears have now been confirmed.
The striker was forced off during the first half of Pools’ FA Cup 1-0 win over Cheltenham Town earlier this month and returned to see a consultant on Friday.
Pools boss Ronnie Moore says it is a major blow for the League Two side and has called on the other strikers to step up to the mark.
Mikael Mandron has joined on loan from Sunderland until January and impressed on his debut, providing an assist and scooping the man of the match award in the win against Leyton Orient.
Moore will look to him to step into Paynter's boots, with Scott Fenwick and Rakish Bingham also competing for a start.
Paynter is now set to remain in an aircast boot for at least another four weeks and will be unavailable until the end of February at the earliest.
“The aircast boot will reduce the load on his Achilles which will allow it to heal more quickly,” explained head physio Ian Gallagher.
“During this period he will be able to carry out exercises in the pool and also work on his upper body and general conditioning in the gym.
“Once the boot is removed he will start an intense eccentric loading programme for a further four weeks, which is specifically designed to strengthen the tendon.
“If all goes to plan then we hope he will be able to return to action by the end of February.”
Paynter has scored seven goals in 18 games since arriving at the club from Carlisle United in the summer.
Moore added: "It’s a big blow to us because Billy is our leading scorer at this moment in time.
“There’s never a good time for one of your players to get injured but this has come at the wrong time for us and I am sure he will be missed for his leadership on and off the pitch.
“Now the challenge is for the other strikers in our squad to go and establish themselves in the side and try and fill Billy’s boots.”