Brian Rice fears his Hamilton woes are set to take another turn for the worst as he waits for news on Lewis Smith’s latest injury blow.
The Scotland Under-21 ace was Accies’ main creative spark last term but has spent the majority of this campaign in the treatment room with a hamstring issue.
The 20-year-old midfielder made his return after 10 weeks out as substitute during the humiliating 8-0 hammering from Rangers at Ibrox two weeks ago – only to suffer a recurrence of the problem as Rice’s team crashed out of the Betfred Cup with another embarrassing defeat to League Two part-timers Stranraer three days later.
Rice is confident Smith – who will sit out Saturday’s trip to Dundee United – does not need surgery but is still waiting to hear back from experts on the extent of the damage.
He said: “Lewis Smith won’t make the Tannadice game. He felt his hamstring again during the Stranraer game.
“That’s a big blow for us as he’s been a massive loss this season and he’s been out a lot longer than we expected.
“But it’s important we get him right as he is such an important player for the club.
“Yeah it’s becoming a concern for me because Lewis Smith is undoubtedly a talent. He’s a player who gets you on the edge of your seat and he’s a big-game operator.
“He gets on the ball, takes us up the pitch, creates chances and is beginning to score goals – but he’s been out since late August which is a long, long time for a club like us to be without a really influential player.
“He’s going for a scan today to see the extent of the damage and fingers crossed it’s not as severe as last time. I don’t think we’ll need to look at anything like (surgery) but we just need to get to the bottom of it.”
Accies have shipped on average almost three goals per game in the Premiership this term and Rice knows that cannot continue if they are to climb off bottom spot.
He has ordered his men in for double sessions in a bid to fix their leaky backline.
“We need to get back to basics and that has been the soul focus this week,” he said. “We’ve been working very hard in the areas where we’ve been poor.
“We’ve been doing double sessions with the boys which we weren’t allowed to do because of our Covid issues.
“But we’ve been able to do a wee bit more and I’m hopeful they can take that onto the pitch on Saturday.
“It’s about doing the simple things right. Heading it clear, kicking it clear, picking up opposition players. Things were never complicated – we were making basic mistakes.
“So we’ve been working on the fundamentals of working better as a team.
“I do see the belief in the players that they can turn things around. We’re not that many points off third and fourth bottom with games in hand.
“I want them to go out on Saturday and give it all they’ve got. The boys know what’s at stake.”