YORK City Knights are seeking extra front-row force after potentially being left down to the bare bones at prop for the "biggest fortnight" of their season so far.
The second-placed Knights face third-placed Oldham, away, and first-placed Hunslet, at home, on the next two Sundays, but they will go into the fortnight without big Nathan Freer and possibly without pocket battleship Jack Aldous.
With Iain Morrison and Austin Bell still yet to return from illness and injury, it could leave boss Gary Thornton with only four fit props - the rookie quartet of Jake Joynt, Jack Pickles, Nathan Harper and Tim Stubbs, who have only 19 first-grade appearances between them in the semi-pro arena.
Pickles played for only the first time this term against Hemel last Sunday, and Harper has played only twice following injury, while young Stubbs' two first-team outings were as a 17-year-old at the end of 2012.
Thornton said: "Oldham are a very big team and on the day we need big men it's the one week when we might end up going with a depleted front row.
"These are two big games for us and it couldn't have come at a worse time."
Freer was still suffering affects of concussion this week after being knocked out in an accidental clash of heads during the win over Hemel. The in-form Aldous has hamstring trouble.
If the Knights are unable to bring in new blood, Thornton would have the option of pushing one of his second-rows up front, but arguably the most likely candidate, Jason Golden, remains ruled out indefinitely as the club seek an answer to his ongoing shoulder woe.
"Nathan Freer will definitely be out," confirmed Thornton. "He banged heads with Jake Joynt in a tackle when they (Hemel) scored and he was still groggy last night. Jack Aldous' hamstring is also sore.
"We're thin on the ground in the front row. Austin Bell and Iain Morrison are still out - we'll have to see how they are shaping up.
"We're having to look around at the minute to see if anyone is available."
That "anyone" would most probably be a loan move, but it is very unlikely to be a dual-registration switch from partner club Castleford.
The Tigers themselves are currently light up front with Dan Fleming, who has played once for York this season, out for eight weeks with a back problem, while Ryan Boyle is ruled out for the season with cruciate ligament damage and Nathan Massey, a Knights loanee back in 2008, is sidelined until mid-June by an ankle injury.
That shortage up front saw Cas bring in former Wigan and Salford prop Lee Jewitt earlier this month on a deal until the end of the season. Jewitt, 27, had been playing for French Elite Championship side Limoux.