DARLINGTON boss Alun Armstrong admits he was downhearted after being told he has lost another player to injury, and will now look to bring in reinforcements on loan.

After Luke Trotman was last week ruled out for most of the season, if not all, having ruptured an Achilles tendon, Jamie Holmes has now been told he will not play again for around six months.

Quakers had thought the former Newcastle United youth team player would be missing for two or three weeks, but a scan made it clear that he has suffered a cruciate ligament injury.

His absence increases Armstrong’s woes as he has been without key midfielder David Atkinson since pre-season, while Stephen Thompson is also unavailable for this Saturday’s game at home to Southport.

He said: “We started the season without Atky, who is a key part of the jigsaw, then we lose Trots, who is one of the club’s biggest assets, and then Jamie Holmes.

“He is another lad who I think could move into full-time football, one of the most talented lads I’ve worked with, natural ability. He was red hot in pre-season, everyone saw it.

“We were expecting him out a couple of weeks and he felt the same. It didn’t even look like an ACL, he wasn’t in excruciating pain

“And then you get the scan and get the results and I was absolutely devastated, I couldn’t believe it.”

Holmes, a summer signing from Blyth Spartans, had been one of Darlington’s stand-out performers in pre-season.

Armstrong added: “He’s so exciting to watch, he gets people off their seat and he had been the fittest I’ve ever seen him.

“He’s devastated as well and I’m gutted for the kid. He thinks he’s let us down, but that’s not the case. He will come back stronger I can guarantee that.

“I’m just grateful the club got the scan done straight away rather than waiting, because some clubs would’ve done. I’ve got to thank the club for that.”

Both Trotman and Holmes sustained their injuries in the 1-1 draw with Gateshead last Wednesday, and neither were on the end of tough tackles.

“They aren’t muscle pulls or anything that could have been prevented,” added Armstrong.

“They have come from twists and turns that happen in football, whereas if it was a hamstring or a calf you could say the player hadn’t looked after himself, hadn’t done the pre-match warm-up.

“Jamie tried to keep the ball in play and as he did that he planted his foot, twisted it and got a nudge. He tried to carry on playing! I’ve never seen anyone try to keep playing with a cruciate, they’re usually crumpled in pain and they’re done.

“This is Holmesy for you, he gets up and thinks he can run it off. We thought it was cartilage when it gave way on him, so an ACL is the worst possible outcome.”

Armstrong says he will not bring in anyone before the weekend, meaning Justin Donawa could get an opportunity from the start against Southport.

The manager said: “That’s three massive players not allowed to play through injury. Yes, I built a squad that could rotate during injuries and you don’t mind doing it for two or three weeks, but six-month injuries put a lot of pressure on.

“It puts pressure on the club’s finances as well and I don’t want to do that.

“There’s going to be players available at the end of the month, especially on loan, when the Football League window shuts and clubs can’t sign anyone.

“Once the academy teams know who hasn’t gone out on loan because a Football League club hasn’t taken them, then they’ll know where they stand.

“But it’s got to be right for us financially and Justin is there and might get a chance.

“There’s no point in me jumping in straight away, we’ve got to be patient, analyse what we’ve got and if I can get Atky back I will be delighted.”

Atkinson could play a part against Southport, but Armstrong is unsure about risking him.

Thompson is restricted by the terms of his employment as to when he can take holiday and since signing for Darlington seven years ago has taken time off in August, meaning he misses a match or two.

He chose this week to go abroad in order to reduce the impact his absence would have as there is no midweek match, something that he did with Armstrong’s seal of approval.

He said: “The kid picked a week when we haven’t got a midweek game, it’s different class from him. Sometimes players aren’t bothered and will pick a week that suits them.

“Thommo picked a time when we have one match and he wasn’t to know we’d have injuries.

“But we’ve still got enough in the squad to cover. The starting line-up that we have on Saturday will be good enough to win the game, it’ll still be strong.”