FALKIRK have been dealt a massive blow after it was revealed that goalkeeper Tim Krul could be out of action for at least TWO months.
The on-loan Newcastle stopper dislocated his shoulder after saving a Scott Severin penalty kick in Tuesday night's 3-1 Scottish Cup defeat to Aberdeen.
As a result, the 19-year-old Dutchman (pictured here) was stretchered off the Pittodrie pitch in agony and had to spend the night in hospital.
Krul was released on Wednesday and saw a specialist later in the day when he was explained the full extent of his injury.
Manager John Hughes told Heraldsport: "It looks like Tim will need an operation and Newcastle United are taking care of him, but he will be out for two months at least.
"It is bad news. He has been fantastic for us and we can only be thankful for what he has given Falkirk during his time here. We really feel for him."
Krul was granted an extension to his initial six-month loan deal three weeks ago, until the end of the season. But Hughes will now have to look elsewhere for another goalkeeper.
"We have Robert Olejnik and two other young keepers, but I will have to find further cover," he said. "That is something we could do without as it means re-assessing our budget and looking again at what we want to bring in during the transfer window."
It also seems likely that Michael Higdon, who injured his knee against Aberdeen in the SPL meeting on January 5, will also be on the sidelines for a similar amount of time.
The striker had an operation last week but will continue doing alternative fitness work in order to return as soon as possible.
That all adds up to a week of pretty bad news coming out of Westfield, following the Scottish Cup exit three days after going down 2-0 to Gretna in the league.
"I just can't legislate for it," explained Hughes. "We had a meeting before the Gretna game and I explained how important this quarter was, as it will decide where we finish in the SPL this season.
"There was also the opportunity to claim a fifth round cup tie at home. I don't know, but perhaps they were spooked by all that.
"After a defeat like Saturday's, good teams should come back hungry. But I could tell by their body language, on Tuesday, that they didn't want to be there.
"That is extremely disappointing and I really feel for the supporters. They would give their right arm to play for Falkirk and the players must have the same attitude.
"Yes, they can take the plaudits when they're doing well, but have to bounce back as quickly as possible when they're not, and give the fans what they want.
"You judge players, and make decisions, on performances like those ones.
"All my loyalties are for Falkirk so if it means bringing in fresh faces, perhaps with more experience, then that's what I'll have to do."
The Bairns now face back-to-back fixtures against the Old Firm, starting with Celtic this Sunday. And Hughes says he'll be looking for "inspirational" performances from his team.
"They need to go and give it everything, starting this weekend," the manager added.
"It won't be easy against Celtic, or Rangers, and anything gained will be a bonus, but it is very important that we pick up results again and get the season back on track as quickly as possible."