MALVERN Town have received a boost after it emerged top scorer Bryan Craven could return to action as early as February next year.
The striker, who has bagged 11 goals since joining the club in the summer, thought his season was over when he was forced to undergo an operation on his knee.
But manager Les Jones revealed Craven’s injury was “not as severe as first feared” and he was confident he would play a part this season after a successful operation.
“We thought Bryan would be out for the season, but the operation went well and he hopes to be back in February, so there are a lot of positive signs,” Jones said.
“We understood that he would have to have his cartilage repaired before having his knee washed out, but when they operated on him they realised that the cartilage was OK.
“It is a big boost for the club and I am genuinely pleased for Bryan. He had written this season off, but now there is an opportunity for him to come back.
“We are not going to rush him back as he has got to be right. But as long as his rehab goes well hopefully we can get him back towards the end of the season.”
In the meantime, Jones said he believes the likes of Sam Rathbone and new recruit Ben Hayes will replace Craven as the club’s biggest goalscoring threat.
“Bryan is still our top goalscorer, so he is a big player for us and he will be a big miss,” he said. “But we have got a strong squad this year, so now is the opportunity for others to step up and start taking the scoring mantle.
“Recently, we lost 5-4 in the cup and won 4-3 and scored again on Saturday, so we are still scoring goals and hopefully we can keep that going.
“Ben Hayes has done well as he has scored three goals in six games so he has stepped up since he has come back from injury, while Sam Rathbone is a young lad who is doing well, so the future is bright here.”