Newmarket Town manager Kevin Grainger has revealed that Austen Diaper’s ankle injury could force him into a change of tactics for Monday’s League Challenge Cup final against neighbours Mildenhall Town.
The Jockeys are comfortably the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division’s highest scorers with 122, of which 21 have been supplied by Diaper.
However, wide attacker Diaper, who has found the net a further six times in other competitions, will play no part against the champions at Brewers Green Lane — home of Diss Town FC — because of the injury he suffered at former club Ely City earlier this month.
Initially Grainger opted to continue playing in the same fashion despite Diaper’s absence, but Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Kirkley & Pakefield has forced him to reconsider.
“I was so disappointed with the performance at the weekend — we missed Austen a lot,” said Grainger.
“Losing Austen seems to have affected us more than we were hoping.
“When we lost Scott Paterson to injury a few weeks ago we had to change things and maybe we will have to do the same without Austen.
“We do not have that type of player to replace him. He works so hard in attack and is deceptively good in the air.
“I feel sorry for Austen to miss such a big match. It is a real kick in the teeth for him because he is a great lad and has been fantastic this season.
“But this is a final and we cannot feel sorry for ourselves. We have won without Austen before, so others will have to step up again.”
Mildenhall won the two league matches between the pair, both of which were played by early October when Grainger was still trying to find the best combinations in key positions.
His side are much more settled now — something that the boss feels could work in his team’s favour.
“When we faced Mildenhall things had not clicked for us,” he added.
“Had we played them later in the season, I am not saying we would have won, but it would have been very close.
“If both teams play to their potential it is going to be a great game.”
While Diaper will not be present, Grainger is hopeful that midfielder Ollie Snaith can feature.
Snaith left Newmarket — winners of the League Challenge Cup in 2014 — for Needham Market earlier in the season and has since joined Cambridge City, but he remains dual registered with the Thurlow Nunn League club.
n For Mildenhall manager Dean Greygoose’s thoughts on the final, see www.newmarketjournal.co.uk/sport