TOM CLARKE faces a knee operation tomorrow.
The news follows last night's miserable 2-1 exit to Doncaster in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
Town's 18-year-old defender was carried off during Saturday's 2-1 League win against Carlisle (inset picture) and missed the first-round tie which attracted only 3,629 to the Galpharm.
"It's not good news for Tom or for the club, but we're keeping our fingers crossed," said manager Peter Jackson, who received a £300 fine but avoided a touchline ban when he appeared before FA disciplinary chiefs yesterday.
"Tom went to see the specialist and he's decided to do an exploratory operation to have a look around inside the knee joint.
"Anything untoward will be dealt with straight away but we've no idea at this stage how long he'll be out."
Young Clarke joins David Mirfin, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Andy Holdsworth on the injury list ahead of Saturday's League I trip to face Akpo Sodje and Co at Port Vale (3.00).
Jackson made seven changes last night while sticking to competition rules about fielding six regulars, but he lost keeper Matt Glennon to a dead-leg injury after only 31 minutes so Paul Rachubka made a first appearance of the campaign.
He could do nothing to prevent Lewis Guy adding to Jason Price's first-half strike after Andy Booth had equalised with the 127th goal of his Town career, putting him third in the all-time list.
"Matt Glennon took a knock on the thigh when Price scored and he's having the injury iced today," said Jackson.
"We'll have to assess him tomorrow and Friday to see how he is."
On last night's display, Jackson added: "It was very disappointing to go out like we did because an individual mistake cost us, but we've now got to pick ourselves up for Port Vale.
"We passed the ball a lot better and competed a lot better in the second half and I thought we would go on to win the game, but one mistake ended that.
"It's important now we keep our League momentum going and it's a big incentive to take three points at Vale."
Town Reserves play Barnsley at the Galpharm tonight (7.00).