Pompey have suffered a major injury blow on the eve of their FA Cup first round clash with the news that James Dunne requires knee surgery.
The midfield enforcer only got through last week’s 3-0 win over Carlisle with a painkilling injection after experiencing discomfort in the warm-up.
But a subsequent scan has revealed some cartilage damage and he will now undergo an exploratory operation on Tuesday to assess the full extent of the problem.
Blues boss Andy Awford already knows he will be without the 25-year-old for Sunday’s FA Cup showdown with Aldershot.
But he admits he is in the dark on whether it could yet be a long-term injury.
He said: ‘We are keeping everything crossed that the damage is minimal.
‘He has played nearly every minute of every game for me so that shows you how important he is to us.
‘He had a jab in his knee before the Carlisle game to get him through it.
‘He had a bit of pain in his knee during the warm-up but after the game, the physios assessed it and decided he needed a scan.
‘The scan revealed some cartilage damage.
‘So he will have an exploratory operation on Tuesday and we don’t know the full extent until they go in and have a look at the damage.
‘We won’t know until Tuesday at the earliest whether he will be out for two weeks, a month or several months. We have no idea on the timescale at the moment.
‘He will definitely be ruled out for an initial period.
‘But it’s a huge blow. He has been superb for us.’
While Dunne needed treatment on an ankle injury early in the Carlisle contest, he also got caught up in the advertising hoardings in the second half of a typical all-action display.
Awford said: ‘He hadn’t been experiencing any pain before Saturday.
‘He fell awkwardly early on in the game and needed treatment but that was his ankle and was totally unrelated.
‘But he is so effective in the middle of the park and him and Danny Hollands have just started to form a really good partnership.’
The length of Dunne’s absence will have a major bearing on whether Awford delves into the loan market.
But several players now have a chance to stake a claim.
Awford said: ‘That is what football is about – one door shuts for someone and it opens for someone else.
‘We know exactly what we get with him.
‘He’s a different type of player. We all know what he gives us and he’s hard to replace.
‘But this is why you have a squad.
‘People like Nigel Atangana, Ben Close, Johnny Ertl and Nick Awford have got a chance now.
‘It’s up to them to take that opportunity and show what they can do.’