Oxford United manager Des Buckingham has delivered an update on the fitness of left-back Greg Leigh ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup second round clash with Grimsby Town.
The 29-year-old has missed the U’s last two League One fixtures after picking up a calf injury whilst on international duty with Jamaica last month. Leigh had started both of their CONCACAF Nations League games against Canada, which Jamaica won on away goals after the two-legged tie finished 4-4. However, the former Morecambe defender was forced off in added time of the second leg.
It was initially claimed that he would only miss around two weeks of action, with Buckingham confirming the news earlier this week;
“Greg picked up a calf injury on international duty, in the 89th minute of the last game that he played.
“He’ll be out for at least a couple of weeks, so he’ll be a loss to us. We’ve got players who can come in and fill in that space.”
Fears that his injury was worse than expected heightened when it was revealed that Oxford had secured the signing of experienced left-back Joe Bennett on a short-term deal. The 33-year-old was released by Wigan Athletic at the end of last season and has been without a club since but has played at a consistent higher level throughout his career, with Buckingham revealing that was the key reason behind his arrival.
The boss also highlighted Leigh’s injury during the announcement, saying;
“Joe has played most of his football at a higher level but knows this league and his experience will be a great help for what is predominantly a young group. Greg Leigh’s injury means Joe will come in and compete on the left-side of defence straight away.”
Pressed on the matter ahead of tomorrow’s fixture, Buckingham explained that the ex-Manchester City youngster should return this month, although the initial assessment of two weeks looks to be on the optimistic side. Via Oxford Mail, the 38-year-old said;
“It’s not long-term, we’re not talking the season, but we’re eyeing up some point in December. We’re just not sure when.
“With the games we have coming, it’s important we don’t rush players back. To have that additional player coming in to support, will not only allow us a bit of time with Greg, but also to manage Ciaron (Brown), who’s been playing that position, and playing well there.”
Buckingham is searching for his first win since taking over from Liam Manning last month, having recorded a defeat against Cheltenham Town in his first game in charge before settling for a goalless draw against Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday.
It still appears that Leigh’s injury is not a serious one and the decision to bring in Joe Bennett is a smart one as we enter the busiest period of the season. Starting tomorrow, Oxford will play eight games this month and there is no point rushing any player back from injury if there is ample quality within the squad.
In the meantime, Buckingham will be hoping to secure a passage to the potentially lucrative FA Cup third round when the Mariners visit the Kassam Stadium tomorrow afternoon.