Football: Leeds' injury problems mount

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The Independent Online
DAVID BATTY, the Leeds United midfielder, will be out of action for at least another month because of his rib injury, it was revealed yesterday.

Batty, who was the first signing of the new Leeds manager, David O'Leary, broke a rib on his debut in his return to the club - the 2-0 home win over Coventry on 14 December. The news comes before tonight's FA Cup third- round replay with Rushden & Diamonds, and Batty is the latest in a long line of Leeds players to be ruled out through injury.

O'Leary has also lost central defenders Robert Molenaar - who undergoes surgery today - and Martin Hiden to season-long knee ligament damage.

O'Leary is also almost certain not to risk Lucas Radebe for the game at Elland Road, because he has only played 70 minutes in the reserves since his own knee injury, also sustained against Coventry.

Jonathon Woodgate, another central defender, is also very doubtful with a thigh strain which forced him out of Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Blackburn. O'Leary is left with only David Wetherall as a recognised central defender.

On the subject of Batty's injury, O'Leary said: "David has been training with us but his broken rib is still painful, so he will be out for at least another month. I don't know when our injury jinx is going to let up and leave us alone. But we've an exciting cup tie and we've got to show that we can cope with this crisis that has hit us."

Rushden produced a tremendous display at Nene Park 10 days ago when they held Leeds to a goalless draw. But it was a performance which was nothing less than O'Leary expected and given his team's injury list, tonight's game will not be a foregone conclusion.

"Rushden certainly didn't take me by surprise in the first game. I had seen them on the Monday before the tie and I knew they were a very professional outfit," O'Leary said.

"I always knew it would be tough, particularly knowing how brittle we were at the back going into the game, and we are going to be struggling defensively again.

"The disappointing thing is that we've been so hurt by injuries in one department. I've not ruled Jonathon Woodgate out yet but he is struggling and will have a test tomorrow. With the number of injuries we've had, I'm proud of the way the players have kept going."

If Woodgate fails his test and O'Leary refuses to gamble on Radebe, then Gunnar Halle and Alfie Haaland are likely to figure alongside Wetherall.

Rushden's Jim Rodwell and Gary Butterworth will both play after picking up knee and ankle injuries in Saturday's win at Barrow, although Michael Mison is out for four weeks with a knee problem.