By Liam Chronnell
Bamber Bridge v FC United
UniBond League Division One North
STUART Rudd has handed FC United a major boost.
The Rebels feared last season's top-scorer would be ruled out for the rest of the campaign after suffering a knee injury last month.
But the talismanic striker is now expected to be back in five weeks after scans revealed the problem is not a bad as first thought.
And manager Karl Marginson believes the return of Rudd, who struck 45 goals in 49 games last term and has partially torn his cruciate ligament, will provide a welcome lift to the title-chasing Reds.
"It's good news," said the United boss. "He's going to get back in the gym and, hopefully, if everything goes all right, he will be playing again in five weeks."
The timely boost comes on the back of a disappointing weekend for the breakaway club, who suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at struggling Clitheroe. Chasing a seventh straight victory, FC were expected to keep the pressure on leaders Curzon Ashton at Shawbridge.
But goals from Joel Byrom and Paul Fildes handed the hosts the advantage and, although Chris Baguley's free-kick reduced the deficit on 65 minutes, the Rebels could not find the equaliser and left empty-handed.
"It was a bad day at the office," admitted Marginson, whose side entertained Rossendale at Gigg Lane last night. "They defended really well and shut it down, but we still created chances and should've come away with something."
FC will have the opportunity to keep the pressure on Curzon when they travel to Bamber Bridge on Saturday.
The Rebels thumped the Preston side 5-0 in the President's Cup two weeks ago, but Marginson believes his side can expect a far tougher test this time around.
He added: "That result will be fresh in their minds and they will make it much harder. They had a few players missing in the cup but they will be a lot stronger this time."
Meanwhile, FC have been invited to take part in the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens tournament at the end of the season.
The Reds board are considering the invitation to the seven-a-side competition, which this year involved Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven, Spurs, Celtic, Aston Villa, and some of Asia's best-known clubs.
A spokesman said: "The invitation offers our players a tremendous opportunity to play in such a prestigious tournament and end-of-season trips such as this and our earlier trip to Lokomotiv Leipzig help with our player recruitment and retention."
In other off-field matters, reserves boss Tony Cullen has been made first-team coach in a backroom staff reshuffle. Youth team chief Loz Greenhalgh takes his place.
4:28pm Wednesday 14th November 2007