Tom Bender in contention for a shock recall to St Albans City's squad to face Forest Green Rovers
- Credit: DANNY LOO PHOTOGRAPHY
Tom Bender is in contention for a shock return in St Albans City's FA Cup clash with Forest Green Rovers - just 18 days after being stretchered off the field with what looked like a serious injury.
It came in the fourth qualifying round success over Corinthian Casuals with Saints' current longest-serving player in some distress.
The thoughts on the night were it was either a fracture or even ligament damage but when both were ruled out, the 28-year-old, who signed for Saints in 2016 from Forest Green, went into overdrive to get fit.
Manager Ian Allinson said: "Tom Bender has worked extremely hard over the last 10 days from where he was and did so again on Tuesday.
"Whether he’ll be included or involved, we don’t know yet.
"But since he got the news that he didn’t have the fracture, he’s worked extremely hard on his fitness levels and the strength round the ankle to make sure that it is strong.
"I’m not sure where we are with contact or anything along them lines."
- 1 Recap: Rail delays through St Albans and Harpenden after train hits branch
- 2 Fire crews receive 'multiple' 999 calls amid large blaze at Welham Green
- 3 Jubilee garden opened at Harpenden primary school
- 4 Goods worth more than £260 in total stolen from St Albans Co-op store
- 5 Clarence Park deckchairs banned following council concerns
- 6 St Albans garden centre dedicates fundraising year to Brain Tumour Research
- 7 Teenager ‘robbed at knife-point' by two males in Hemel Hempstead
- 8 School's generous donation to foodbank
- 9 Breakaway Theatre Company returns with an enjoyable day at the races in Ladies' Day
- 10 Katherine Ryan and Romesh Ranganathan spotted filming in St Albans
He is not the only one though fighting to get into the squad, with fellow defender Michael Clark also in contention after playing 55 minutes in the reserves' 3-1 win over Sandridge Rovers on Saturday, his first action of the season.
Allinson said: "Michael has done very well from having a stress fracture of the pelvis back in May which we didn’t have diagnosed well enough at the time, we thought he had a tear in the lower stomach region.
"That’s healed up and he had 55 minutes against Sandridge on Saturday. He trained Tuesday and felt OK.
"We’ll have to assess them both on Saturday.
"Everyone else is fully fit and we just have to protect them and keep them away from any kind of colds or sniffles or anything like that."
The boss did admit though that simply having their presence at training has been another boost to the already sky-high belief of the players.
He said: "Tom’s a big leader and he’s been a big part of what we’ve done over the last six years.
"Michael was a big part of us keeping clean sheets last year. Dave Diedhiou and Joy Mukena have done very well filling in for Devonte Stanley since his injury but they are both playing out of position at right-back.
"Getting Michael back will be a major boost for us and help us defensively going forward over the next few weeks."
And when it comes to naming his final squad for Sunday's televised fixture, Allinson says he will approach it far differently to how his old Arsenal gaffer, George Graham, did back in 1987 when he excluded the now City boss from the Littlewoods Cup final squad despite his starring role in the semi-final win over Tottenham.
Allinson said: "I’d like to think I’d deal with it a little bit better than George Graham did.
"I think I have more of a heart in terms of how I would deal with somebody.
"There’s going to be some difficult decisions.
"I’ll speak to them all personally and I’ll give them all a reason why and they will have to accept that.
"The reason I was given was he didn’t have to give me a reason because he was the manager and that has stuck with me for the rest of my life.
"The one thing I won’t do is behave in that way. I’ll always give them a response and a reason and they don’t always have to accept it but I think it is the right way to do it."