Jamie Ward is rated as a 'long shot' for return to Derby County
STRIKER Jamie Ward is likely to be absent again this weekend as Derby County look to respond to successive defeats.
Ward has missed nine matches with a torn hamstring and he is rated a "long shot" to face Birmingham City at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday.
He could also be absent when high-riding Cardiff City visit three days later.
Nigel Clough admits Derby have missed the spark Ward can provide but the manager says care must be taken not to bring the player back too soon.
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"We are conscious that Jamie has hardly done anything at all in terms of joining in training," said Clough.
"He has been doing the one-to-one stuff but it will be a risk to play him on Saturday.
"He hasn't trained yet and we are not sure if he will train today (Wednesday). Friday might be the earliest we see him training, we'll see how he feels.
"If he trains, then we might put him on the bench but that is a long shot.
"He's been out seven weeks or so now, so he is going to need a good week's training.
"We've got Nathan Tyson, Conor Sammon and Theo Robinson, and Mason Bennett is playing again after injury, so there is no great rush for Jamie to come back.
"We would like him available, of course, but generally in home games we have been creating things and we hope we can get away without Jamie in the next couple of matches, if we have to."
Ward scored four goals in eight games before he suffered the hamstring injury in the away win against Nottingham Forest.