DONCASTER Rovers manager Dean Saunders is keeping his fingers crossed Shelton Martis will be ready to play in their season-defining Easter programme.
The big Dutchman has battled with a number of fitness issues throughout the 2011/12 campaign, including hip and knee problems. It was a groin knock which forced Martis to withdraw during the warm-up at Crystal Palace.
The Keepmoat club hope to have injury-prone centre-back Martis available for their Easter Championship fixtures with Leicester City and Burnley.
The 29-year-old has had special orthotics fitted into his football boots to try and take the strain off his body.
Saunders told The Star: “We are trying to solve Shelton’s problems once and for all. He has had injury after injury since being at the club so we have got to get to the bottom of it and I think we have. He might be okay for Leicester and Burnley.”
Martis and Pascal Chimbonda are rated 50/50 by Saunders to return to first-team duty at Leicester. The Rovers chief also has injury concerns over midfield duo Paul Keegan [knee] and Brian Stock [groin]. Martin Woods has started running again following a knee problem.
He said: “We have had a ridiculous schedule. A lot of the injuries we have had are because of the amount of games we have had to play. I’ve given the players a few days off this week to allow them to rest.”
Despite their seven-match winless run, Saunders is still confident Rovers can get out of the sticky predicament they find themselves in.
“If we can win these next two games, the table will look completely different,” he insisted.
Saunders feels Rovers have to pick up a minimum of three points from the Easter double-header to keep their hopes alive of beating the drop.
Two days ago, Saunders watched on as Rovers drew 2-2 with Sheffield Wednesday in a behind-closed-doors match. He fielded a mixture of youngsters and trialists, with Kyle Bennett and James Husband on target.
Versatile Bennett limped off with quarter of an hour left after hurting his toe again.
“Kyle has already had seven injections in his toe and he can only have so many,” said Saunders. “I have had to rest him a bit because he couldn’t get his boot on. We have to try and get him through it.
The Welshman, who was told his job would be safe by chairman John Ryan last week even if Rovers are relegated, says Herita Ilunga’s situation will be re-assessed next week. The left-back’s short-term deal runs out after the Burnley game.