Hull City's Joe Dudgeon facing months out, not weeks, in latest injury blow
HULL City fear Joe Dudgeon may have played his final game of 2012 as the prospect of surgery looms ominously large.
Dudgeon's once bright season has fallen disappointingly under an injury cloud in the last month following a blow to the knee in the 3-1 loss at Leicester City.
Although the 21-year-old was able to feature against both Peterborough and Blackpool in the two fixtures that followed, a continued discomfort in his knee has since ruled him out of action.
Dudgeon will again be missing when the Tigers travel to Bristol City tomorrow evening, but fears are mounting the rookie could soon be condemned to a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
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The former Manchester United youngster will visit a specialist in London early next week to gauge the full extent of his knee injury.
City have not yet given up hope of Dudgeon avoiding surgery, but having suffered problems in the same knee during his time at Old Trafford, an operation could see him ruled out until January.
"Joe's been in with the manager and Rob Price, the head physio, because his swelling on the knee is persistent," assistant manager Steve Agnew explained.
"He's going down to see a specialist in London in the early part of next week and it may be that he has to have something done to his knee.
"What that will be, we're not quite sure, but we'd be looking at a spell out if that was the case. It would be months, rather than weeks.
"He's had problems, nothing major, before when he was at Man United and I'm not sure if there's some wear and tear from that.
"Joe is a fit boy who was terrific for us in the first part of the season. That's the sad thing for Joe and ourselves that he's picked up this injury."
Dudgeon's absence has been sweetened by the form of returning skipper Andy Dawson, but a lengthy lay-off will impact on City's ability to play 3-5-2.
The wing-back system is not suited to Dawson and unless Liam Rosenior, Ahmed Elmohamady or Stephen Quinn can be converted, the previously favoured formation could be abandoned indefinitely by manager Steve Bruce.
City will be boosted by the returns of Abdoulaye Faye and Robert Koren when they travel to Bristol City tomorrow, but Matty Fryatt remains in a state of injury limbo.
The Tigers remain undecided between surgery and ongoing injections to cure an Achilles injury as they look to overcome a problem that threatens to leave the striker's campaign in tatters.
"Matty's in to his second injection and he'll be in a boot for another two weeks," added Agnew.
"We'll assess it again after that and if it's no better, surgery would follow. Matty is quite hopeful that it won't go that far, but any clarification on his injury will have to wait for another couple of weeks.
"It's hugely frustrating for Matty, more than anyone, when the only time he's kicked a ball was in the Rotherham game.
"I had both of my Achilles operated on as a player and I've spoken with Matty to say that it's not the be-all and end-all.
"He's a positive player and hopefully he'll be back sooner rather than later."
With knee-injury victims Jack Hobbs and Tom Cairney at least four weeks away from their competitive returns, the possible loss of Fryatt and Dudgeon for the coming months will leave City with a badly-depleted squad.
The frailties of the Tigers' ranks were exposed when only six substitutes were named for the 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday, but Agnew revealed there are still no immediate plans to strengthen ahead of the emergency loan window closing on November 22.
"We have the nucleus of a good squad with a good togetherness," he said.
"We're like any football club where we're on the look out. You never say never to improving, but we've got a good group of players here."