Charlestown Azzurri coach Graham Law does not expect to have the experienced strike-force of Scott Smith and Kane Goodchild to call on this Northern NSW NPL season.
Smith, the NNSW top-division leading scorer in 2013, went down with a back injury from a mountain bike fall in pre-season and is taking longer than first thought to recover.
Goodchild, a three-time league-leading scorer and the 2016 player of the year, then suffered knee ligament damage in a 2-1 trial win over Newcastle Olympic a week ago.
Attacking recruit Regan Lundy was also missing for Sunday's opening round loss to Adamstown, who scored in the fourth minute through an own goal and held on 1-0 at Lisle Carr Oval.
Lundy is expected back from a groin strain in about two weeks but Law was not banking on having his senior strikers on board for the shortened, 13-round regular season.
"With Kane they reckon it will be eight to 12 weeks, which is basically the season," said Law, who has taken over from David Tanchevski this year at Azzurri.
"Scott expects to be back in six to eight weeks. But these guys are older and coming back from a lay-off like that, they are not coming back easily.
"And Regan hasn't kicked a ball because he's coming back from a groin strain, so that's three pretty key strikers."
The injuries came after the withdrawal of Lachlan Pasquale, Rio Nishiura and Ethan Eames during the suspension of football due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Azzurri had to call on 16-year-old Ali Al-Nabhan to play centre-half on Sunday, while defender Zac Lloyd moved into midfield.
Law, though, said the changes were no excuse for the defeat to Adamstown, who his side "battered" without success in front of goal.
"To be fair to the Buds, they started pretty sharp," he said. "They scored and then they hit the bar. They could have been two goals up inside the first 10 minutes and it was a pretty even first half.
"The battering came second half. But it was just one of those games.
"My bench on the weekend were all reserve grade or 18s players, but I'm not moaning, that's just how it is.
"I said that to the boys, there's no excuses, we've got a thin squad but that squad was good enough to beat Adamstown at home.
"We had more than enough chances to win that game at the weekend.
"The club seems to be very much understanding and it's a work in progress, but I'm competitive and you work with what you've got and you get on with it.
"It's a different proposition going to Magic. We need to work on a game plan for that."
Azzurri face an even tougher task against Broadmeadow on Sunday in round two. Magic thumped Valentine 5-0 last Sunday.
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