TOWN hope injured captain Jon Worthington will be back in action in three weeks.
The 23-year-old midfielder missed his third League I match since finally surrendering to a nagging groin injury when Brentford visited on Saturday.
Worthington, who has had surgery, is almost sure to have to watch another three from the sidelines - at Rotherham tomorrow, at home to Crewe on Saturday and at Nottingham Forest seven days after that.
But the lunchtime derby showdown with Bradford at the Galpharm on Saturday, March 10 is a target.
Town have a Reserve match at home to Stoke the Wednesday before, and Worthington will have it pencilled in.
"The operation went well, and Jon has been given a projected recovery time of three weeks, which is reasonable," said manager Peter Jackson.
"Before surgery, the medics said it could be a month. It's a nice incentive for Jon as he begins his rehab programme, and knowing what he's like, he'll be itching to make progress."
The operation, on the right side of the groin where the Academy product had previously suffered two hernias, involved inserting a three-inch square mesh to strengthen the whole area.
Meanwhile physio Lee Martin is hopeful Nathan Clarke's latest operation will have cured his knee problems.
The 23-year-old defender has had the cartilage in his right knee trimmed to remove a `flapping' piece.
Clarke, injured against Gillingham on February 3 - his comeback after a different injury to the same joint - already has full range of movement in the knee and has been working out on an exercise bike without any reaction. Clarke, who came through the ranks alongside Worthington, has been given a recovery time of four to six weeks.
"Nathan had what is termed a bucket-handle tear in the meniscus cartilage," explained Martin. "We found that most of the back-side of the meniscus was damaged, and it was fully removed during surgery.
"The meniscus is like a shock absorber between the ends of the two major leg bones.
"By removing it there is a greater chance of the bone ends rubbing together, which could cause a problem in later life.
"But it will not effect his career in terms of quality or length, and effectively, the knee is fully repaired."
Clarke's younger brother Tom is making good progress in his rehabilitation programme after knee surgery.
"From this week, he will be starting running outside, which is a big step for him."