DAVID Hockaday has signed former Southampton centre-back Aarran Racine on a three-month contract to negate a defensive crisis.
The 20-year-old was a surprise addition to Rovers bench for Sunday’s 2-2 draw against a Manchester United XI after summer-signing Paul Green was taken to hospital with an ankle injury during Friday night’s clash with Wealdstone – adding to existing injury concerns for left back Chris Stokes and versatile defender Chris Todd.
The decision to have trialist Racine on the bench was further vindicated when centre-back Jamie Turley limped to the sideline and right-back Jared Hodgkiss was stretchered off with what was initially feared to be a broken ankle. Racine looked composed in defence and confident on the ball during his 20 minute cameo – starting the movement that led to Yan Klukowski’s 90th minute equaliser.
The injuries meant that Hockaday’s proclamation after signing Paul Green that he "won’t be signing any more players unless bubonic plague strikes" proved somewhat prophetic.
Hockaday said: "Well we have certainly been plagued by injuries over the weekend but that’s the reason we have the squad that we do and we had the foresight to bring in Aarran on trial.
"He played for me when I was in charge of the Southampton youth team. It’s hard to believe Aarran’s only twenty – he’s quite the specimen, big and strong but mobile and as the supporters saw on Sunday – very confident on the ball."
Racine spent six years in Southampton’s youth system, was training with the first team at 16 and tipped to progress, when a knee injury curtailed his progress. Despite being back to full fitness Racine was released at the end of last season and trained with League sides Yeovil Town and AFC Wimbledon during the summer. Racine said: "I never went out on loan during my time at Southampton, so I’ve not played (competitive games) for any other club. So it’s nice to have a manager that knows me.
"Unfortunately there were a couple of injuries on Sunday, but that gave me a chance and I feel quite fit having trained with Yeovil and Wimbledon, so hopefully I can get some more minutes on the field and prove myself."
Meanwhile, an x-ray has cleared Hodgkiss of any bone damage in his ankle after he landed awkwardly in front of the main stand with only 4 minutes of Sunday’s encounter remaining. While the Rovers’ captain does have some soft tissue damage, he is unsure how long he will be out.
The 25-year-old said: "The ankle is pretty sore but I’m just glad it isn’t broken. It’s just a week before the season starts – that is the frustrating thing."
Green similarly suffered ligament damage to his ankle and Hockaday believes his stay on the sideline will be "months rather than weeks".
Jamie Turley’s injury was not major and his withdrawal on Sunday was more precautionary; while left-back Chris Stokes may be in line for a return from the thigh injury that has limited his preseason and summer signing Ed Asafa-Adjaye is equally adept on either defensive flank.