Ross County are on the lookout for a new goalkeeper after it was confirmed Englishman Nathan Baxter will require a shoulder operation.
Baxter, who joined on loan from Chelsea last month, returned to Stamford Bridge for treatment last week after picking up the injury in training.
The prognosis has left Baxter facing an absence of around four months which will force the Staggies to find another goalkeeper to challenge Ross Laidlaw, with teenager Ross Munro to remain on loan at Raith Rovers.
County co-manager Steven Ferguson said: “Nathan unfortunately is needing an operation. He’s going to be out for a long time.
“It can range between a best case scenario of three months or four months.
“Obviously with Nathan not being available we’ll need to make sure we get another goalkeeper in.
“We need to make sure we’re not caught short in that area.
“We’ve still got a bit of time and the process is well down the road. We’ll not panic.
“What we don’t want to do is bring back Ross Munro from Raith Rovers as that would hinder his plan for the season.
“We’ll look at another loan or somebody permanent – there’s nothing concrete yet.”
The loss of highly regarded Baxter is a blow to the Staggies, with Ferguson confirming the two clubs have yet to decide on whether the 20-year-old will return to Victoria Park once he has regained fitness.
Ferguson added: “As we speak, we’re assessing that. We’re just trying to work out with Chelsea what the best way to go is. To be fair, Chelsea have been excellent in how they’ve dealt with it.
“I just hope the operation goes well for Nathan and he gets himself back on the pitch as quickly as he can.
“It is really disappointing as Nathan showed us what he was about. It’s a loss to us, but we just need to deal with it.”
County make the trip to Brechin City in the Betfred Cup tonight, with the depleted League 2 outfit having been forced to field 45-year-old manager Barry Smith in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Forfar Athletic.
Ferguson, who played for the Angus outfit towards the end of his career, added: “I enjoyed my time at Brechin. We won the old Second Division when I was there and it is a really well-run part-time club.
“They’re probably going through a difficult spell at the moment, but they’re certainly a great club with a lot of good people.
“I know Barry played at the weekend. They have a couple of guys whose clearance wasn’t through and by the end of last season I don’t think he had any signed players.
“They will be like us, going through the same process of getting ready for the start of the league campaign.
“I’d have thought they would have another couple added by the time we play.”