BLACKPOOL defender Oliver Casey could have been sent off for the ‘really bad challenge’ which injured John McAtee in midweek, says Barnsley head coach Neill Collins.

The striker, who is on loan from Premier League Luton Town, netted his sixth goal of the season at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday in the EFL Trophy. But a tackle by Casey as he was scoring left him with a knee injury and he came off at half-time.

Collins told the Chronicle: “It was a really bad challenge. Because it’s a goal, it goes unnoticed and unpunished which is disappointing.

“In other circumstances, the player could have been sent off.”

It is unclear yet how long McAtee will be out for. Collins said: “John has been fantastic for us. He epitomises a lot of what we want to be in terms of his attitude against the ball and excitement on the ball.

“When he goes down, you know it’s something concerning.

“He will be a miss but it’s an opportunity for someone else.

“When Kacper Lopata hurt his shoulder, Mael de Givegney stepped in and did well.

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“Sam Cosgrove has done really well recently, Fabio Jalo, Max Watters and Aiden Marsh are all desperate for an opportunity. We could also change the structure as well.”

Midfielder Luca Connell has a ‘small issue’ but could play at Reading on Saturday depending on how he comes through training.

Goalkeeper Liam Roberts has been out for two months since October 7 with a finger injury. Collins said he was back ‘in the building’ and could return later this month.

Midfielder Josh Benson has returned to jogging in training and is also likely to return this month.

Defender Robbie Cundy has missed the whole season so far with a glute problem. Collins said he was back running outside but could not offer a timescale on when he would return.

Midfielder Matty Wolfe, who has been out since January, is not expected back until 2024.