DAN BALLARD remains a major injury doubt for Sunderland’s home game with QPR – with Mike Dodds having suffered another double setback this week with confirmation that Jenson Seelt and Nazariy Rusyn will also be unavailable as the Black Cats look to end a six-game losing run.

Ballard was forced off in the second half of last weekend’s defeat at Southampton after suffering a hamstring injury and has not been able to join in with full training this week.

He has avoided any serious long-term damage, and was named in the Northern Ireland squad earlier this week, suggesting he should be able to represent his country later this month.

He remains touch and go for tomorrow’s meeting with QPR though, with Dodds admitting the 24-year-old would almost certainly be rested had an entire back four not already been ruled out of the game. Dennis Cirkin, Aji Alese, Niall Huggins and Seelt are all sidelined through injury, while Luke O’Nien will serve the final game of his two-match ban.

“Dan’s injury is not as bad as first feared,” said Sunderland’s interim head coach. “He’s been wrapped up in cotton wool all week. It’s a real difficult one. I think what we’re going to do is leave it until the very last minute, just based purely on our circumstances at the moment, with the number of injuries and how severely light we are.

“He felt a tweak to his hamstring. He tried to carry on – he didn’t throw the towel in – but when he ran back on, he said he could still feel it. Initially, I feared the worst, but it’s settled down this week and he seems fairly positive.

“We’ll leave it to the last minute in terms of making the decision on whether he’s fit or not, and whether we take the risk. There’s a few moving parts to that one. Ultimately, if we had a fully-fit cohort, we maybe wouldn’t take the risk. But with the situation we’re in at the moment, we’ll give him every opportunity to be fit.”

Seelt’s injury is an especially bitter blow, with the Dutch youngster having come through last weekend’s defeat at St Mary’s seemingly unscathed.

However, when he woke up the following morning, his knee had become extremely swollen, and with ligament damage having been confirmed, he will not play again this season. Depending on how bad the injury proves to be once the swelling has subsided, it is even possible that Seelt could be sidelined for a significant chunk of the following campaign.

“Jenson played 90 minutes and was fine, with no worries or concerns,” said Dodds. “He then woke up the next morning and his knee had completely swollen up. He went to see a specialist and they’re still not sure on the timeframe, but his season is finished.

“They’re going to make a decision in the next 14 days in terms of how they’re going to go about his treatment. The specialist has confirmed it’s his season done, but we’re hoping for positive news in the next 14 days in terms of him being back for pre-season. But the worst-case scenario would be a considerable amount of time out.”

Rusyn suffered a knock during the Southampton defeat and is still being assessed. He will definitely miss tomorrow’s meeting with QPR, although it is hoped he could be available to return for the Good Friday game at Cardiff City that follows the international break.

“Naz picked up a knock during the game," confirmed Dodds. “He won’t be available for tomorrow. We are waiting for people who are a lot more qualified in terms than I am for a timeframe on that. He could be back next week, or it could be longer.”