AFC TOTTON are relieved that Ross Bottomley’s hamstring injury is not as severe as first thought.

The powerful centre-back was stretchered off towards the end of last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Leamington in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division.

Judging by Bottomley’s obvious discomfort, manager Steve Riley’s first instinct was to fear he had torn it. But, after further examination, it appears to be only a strain.

“When it initially happened, we feared the worst because Ross was in quite a bit of pain,” said Riley.

“But sometimes you can get really bad cramp which is a similar feeling to tearing it really badly.

“I’ll have a chat with the physio but we won’t take any risks with Ross. He’s suspended for the Cambridge game next Saturday, but he might be in contention for Tuesday (at home to Kettering) if he’s not ready tomorrow.”

After back-to-back defeats at Chippenham and Leamington, the Stags are glad to be returning to home soil tomorrow for the visit of eighth-placed Bedworth United, who are unbeaten in their last four league games.

Totton have already stopped the rot by beating Horndean 2-1 at the Testwood Stadium on Tuesday in the Hampshire FA Senior Cup – albeit that they didn’t field a full-strength side.

“We played young Ross Casey and brought in lads like Jamie Rudd, Luke Roberts and Jack Odam who have not had many minutes but have all patiently waited for their chance,” said Riley. “Horndean had some ball players and played a bit of football on a decent pitch, so it was a good test and I’m pleased to be in the quarter-finals. I’d have to look at the records, but I think it’s the furthest I’ve ever been in the Senior Cup.

“It was nice to win on Tuesday after the Leamington game, where I felt we were a bit unfortunate.

“We were much improved on Chippenham, but a couple of bits of indiscipline crept in with a red for Jono Davies and a yellow for Ross (Bottomley). But that was partly down to frustration because I don’t think the officials helped either side.

“With a bit of luck we could have got a draw, but the worst-case scenario is that we lost one point, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

“Our home form’s good and we’re only six points off the play-offs with games in hand, so we’re in quite a good position.

“We’ve got some massive games coming up and we’ll just stay professional and see if we’re in the mix come January.”

James Coutts sits out the third of a three-match ban tomorrow, giving Chris Mason another chance to impress in central midfield.

One boost for Totton on Tuesday was the sight of striker Nathaniel Sherborne out training on the pitch as he continues his recovery from a broken leg.

“Sherbs did a bit of shooting and smashed one into the top corner, so we can say he’s got his first goal!” smiled Riley.

“He won’t be back for a while, but he’s got the bit between his teeth and I think he’ll return before the doctors predicted.

“It’ll be great to have him playing again. I’m looking forward to it.”