RUNCORN can see light at the end of a dark injury tunnel, although it just seems to be getting longer.
Manager Alvin McDonald says that once his selection problems ease, there will be a bright future.
McDonald lost for the first time as Linnets boss on Saturday with a 2-0 FA Trophy exit at Alfreton.
But he said: 'We haven't been second best in any football match I have been involved in since coming to the club.
'There have been parts of games where we have been under a bit of pressure, but you get that over 90 minutes.
'We have put in five decent performances.
'I would love just to have a fully-fit squad to pick from and get us up and running. It's not excuses just facts.
'But once we settle down, we will have a bit of consistency in team selection and, hopefully, consistency will come in results.'
He added: 'Even on Saturday, we deserved something out of it and we desperately wanted to stay in the competition.
'But if we had got a replay, I hate to think what sort of team we could have put out because we'd have been struggling for 11 fit players.
'I think the supporters who travelled with us to Alfreton appreciated what we had put into the game under the circumstances.'
Saturday's visitors to Halton Stadium are Kettering Town, whose confidence will be high after a 4-0 Trophy win at Newport County.
'All I can say is the 11 fittest players will be the ones who get a shirt,' said McDonald.
The latest casualty is Mike Garrity - although hospital checks show his ribs are not cracked or broken as feared.
His fitness will be assessed at training this week, as will that of fellow midfieldman Lee Parle who only played in an emergency on Saturday.
McDonald has new utility signing Karl Brown available for the first time, against Kettering.
He has also signed James Lock, an attacking left-sided player or forward who was released by Liverpool as an 18-year-old and arrives after a spell in the Army.
Ex-Oldham midfieldman Thomas Fields is due to re-register but red tape means he won't be available until November 19.
Lee Kissock is likely to be out for two months after breaking a leg at Vauxhall last week.
It is nigh impossible for the club to replace injured players because of their financial constraints, although McDonald is hoping for a good turn from contacts in the game.
McDonald said: 'Our injured players still have to be paid and there is no money available at the club.
'I knew that when I got the job and it's something we need to get on with.
'I have signed one or two players who are willing to come on trial to prove themselves, without getting paid.
'They are untried at this level but we are prepared to look at them and, hopefully, somewhere along the line we might pick up a jewel or a gem.'
This Saturday, the Linnets will open a new family enclosure so supporters with young children can enjoy the match in a less fraught environment.
An U14 will continue to be admitted free with each paying adult.
There will be a Meet The Management Night with Alvin McDonald and assistant Peter Carroll at the Halfway House pub, Halton Road, Run-corn on Wednesday, November 24 (7pm-9pm).
Tickets are £3 including a hot-pot supper.