CLARETS striker Steven Thompson could miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on Wednesday.
And that could spark a move into the loan market by boss Eddie Howe for a frontman, who is also facing the prospect of being without Martin Paterson for the remainder of the campaign.
Thompson went in for work on a groin infection, having played through the pain barrier pretty much since the arrival of Howe in January, when news emerged of the problem after his first game in charge at Scunthorpe.
The former Scotland international was nursed through, starting at Portsmouth and against Burton in the cup, before being used sparingly in three substitute appearances at Watford, Cardiff and West Ham – scoring a vital equaliser at Cardiff.
However he was booked in for an operation, and Howe said yesterday morning: “Thommo has gone under the knife, and he had quite a lot done with the surgery.
“We might have seen the last of him this season, which would be a big blow.
“That means we will probably have to move into the loan market, especially with Pato out as well. We’ll keep all our options open.”
Paterson suffered a recurrence of a thigh strain four weeks ago in the defeat at Doncaster Rovers.
And while his rehabilitation is progressing well, he is another who could have seen his last action this term, meaning the men who propelled Burnley to the Wembley Play-Off Final two years ago are unlikely to inspire a repeat.
Howe said: “Pato is coming along okay, it’s been four weeks into his rehabilitation, but the time we were given on that was loose.
“As it was a recurrence, it’s a case of making sure he comes back right. We don’t want him to break down again. We want him to be okay, and we’ll take our time with him.”
Trialist Louis-Rae Beadle from Hampton and Richmond in the Blue Square South League, featured in the reserves’ 4-3 defeat at Bury on Wednesday night.
And Howe will continue to monitor the 21-year-old midfielder, who was with Arsenal as a youngster.
Howe said: “It’s always good to take the chance to look at players who have been recommended, and you have to be flexible, but there’s nothing immediate happening with that one.”
The Clarets host Crystal Palace at Turf Moor tomorrow (kick-off 3 p.m.).
With 14 games to play, Burnley lie four points behind Leeds in sixth place, with two games in hand, so their fate is in their own hands again.
Howe’s reign has seen the Clarets claw their way back into contention with a run of four wins, two draws and a defeat, but the season pretty much starts now.
He said: “The lads are focused, and we are in the run-in now. We have to keep getting results at this important stage of the season, especially when the games come Saturday-Tuesday again.
“There’s no respite, and we’ve still got two games to catch up on, but it’s an exciting time and things are nicely poised. Hopefully we can show the same level of consistency we have of late.”
Palace come to Burnley with one away win under their belt so far this season, coming at Norwich in October, but Howe certainly won’t underestimate a club who made overtures to him before he decided to take over at Turf Moor.
Howe said: “I’ve never really spoken about the Palace job out of respect to them, and I don’t really want to start now.
“The important thing is we hit the ground running against them. It won’t be an easy game, and while their away record is not fantastic, we’ll give them every respect.”
He has been delighted with the welcome he has received since arriving, and, in particular, the away followings over the last month.
And he would love the supporters to make the same racket as they did at Preston.
Howe said: The fans have been great. When they generate the noise and turn out in the numbers they did at Preston, and really get behind the lads, it makes a big difference.”