AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley is having to shuffle his deck of players with all the dexterity of a magician as the Dons start their week from hell.
Ardley’s men travel to York City on Saturday for the first round proper of the FA Cup, before League Two clashes at Exeter on Tuesday night and back at York next weekend – a round trip of more than 1,000 miles.
Adding to Ardley’s woes are a long-term injury to Sammy Moore, and doubts over Curtis Osana and Steven Gregory, while Curtis Haynes-Brown and Dale Bennett’s have been released after their loan period expired.
Ardley has extended the loans of Yado Mambo – to the end of December – and George Francomb for a month, which reaches the full-back’s 93-day emergency loan maximum.
The Dons boss is meeting the board to request two more loan signings after spending two weeks assessing his squad.
Ardley said: “We know what areas need strengthening and I am going to the board to see what we can do, what money is available. We have a list of who we want to bring in, but unfortunately we can only bring in a maximum of two because the limit is five.”
He added: “This is a week from hell, but it is important that we get what points we can. Things are getting very competitive at the bottom and we need to match that.
“But getting the team through this week is going to be tough and a real piecemeal effort.
“With injuries and loan players leaving, the Cup game is a chance for other players to make me sit up and take notice. Don’t get me wrong, the Cup is still hugely important to us, financially and in terms of team confidence. It will start the week well if we win.
“We will be going there and having a real go at them.”