Rory McArdle closing in on Harrogate Town return after three months out, while Will Smith is not too far behind
Rory McArdle should be fit enough to play some part in Harrogate Town's New Year's Day showdown with Port Vale.
The veteran centre-half has not featured for the Sulphurites for more than three months having undergone surgery on a groin injury sustained early in September's goalless draw with Stevenage.
It was hoped that the 34-year-old would be able to return against former club Bradford City on Boxing Day, though that fixture was called off due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the Bantams' camp.
With his team leaking goals and lacking the organisational and leadership skills that McArdle brings, Town boss Simon Weaver has been looking forward to having the ex-Northern Ireland international available for selection again, though he has suggested that it may be necessary to ease him back in.
"Rory might have been okay for the Mansfield game, but not to start," Weaver told the Harrogate Advertiser after Wednesday's scheduled clash with the Stags went the same way as their postponed game against Bradford.
"He needs a few more training sessions yet to get him up to speed. One of the positives about the recent postponements is that it has allowed us time to get more training minutes under the belts of lads like Rory.
"He is looking good and is certainly a possibility for the weekend, but I just have to keep going back to Rachel [Davis, club physio] to make sure that the players who have been out are progressing okay and are ready from her point of view."
Meanwhile, McArdle's fellow centre-half Will Smith is also closing in on a return to action having himself gone under the surgeon's knife after suffering a double-hernia in November.
"Will has been training as well and he is another one we are glad to have coming back," Weaver added.
"He's probably about a week behind Rory in terms of the time-frame for him being able to play again.
"And Aaron Martin is getting closer, too. He joined in with part of our training session on Monday, which was good to see."
The only bad news for Harrogate on the injury front is that pacy winger Simon Power is set to be out until the back end of January.
The ex-Republic of Ireland youth international was missing from Town's matchday squad for their EFL Trophy trip to Tranmere Rovers last week, with Weaver revealing that he picked up a muscle injury during training.
"Simon has a quad injury which he got while doing a crossing drill during training before the Tranmere game," the Sulphurites boss explained.
"It's frustrating for both him and us that he's suffered another set-back. It's an unfortunate one."