Joyce sweating over fitness of duo

Reece Burke
Reece Burke

Warren Joyce is keeping his fingers crossed the injuries that kept Reece Burke and Nathan Byrne out of Saturday’s home defeat to Derby aren’t serious.

The defensive duo were surprise late cry-offs at the weekend, with Joyce left to bemoan another ‘curve-ball’ being thrown in his direction.

Burke, on a season-long loan from West Ham, has a hip problem, while fellow summer signing Burke is nursing an ankle complaint.

Left-back Luke Garbutt filled in at right-back, but looked to cut inside on to his stronger foot at every opportunity, which denied Latics any width down that flank.

And Joyce admits he’s looking for some good news from the medics to allow him to plan properly for this weekend’s tough trip to Aston Villa.

“Reece and Nathan pulling out injured was another curve-ball for us, leaving us without a right-back,” Joyce acknowledged.

“Luke, I don’t think has ever played right-back before, and you’re asking him to come across. I’m trying to talk about consistency, and players playing in the same position.

“But we’ve not been able to forge that because of a mixture of injuries, knocks and even illness.”

Right-back has been a problem area for Latics all year, ever since Kyle Knoyle suffered a badly-broken elbow in his first training session after joining on a 12-month loan.

“You can only look at the players you have available to you,” added Joyce. “And the biggest problem we have is we don’t even have a right-back in the group.

“We’ve been asking a centre-half (Burke) to play out there, which has been a difficult situation that we inherited, that we’ve had to manage.

“Reece has done a tremendous job for us, but he probably regards himself more of a centre-back.

“But that’s just circumstance, and you’re asking players to adapt, as we did when Stephen Warnock has filled in at left centre-back.”