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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Abbott backs Gjokaj to shine at right-back for Carlisle Utd

Carlisle United boss Greg Abbott says he has every faith that rookie Valentin Gjokaj can answer his SOS for an emergency right-back.

Valentin Gjokaj photo
Valentin Gjokaj

The 19-year-old Swiss centre-half is set to make his first start since joining the Blues on loan from Derby County in Saturday’s home clash with high-flying Sheffield United.

Abbott revealed that regular right-back Frank Simek faces a two-week spell on the sidelines with knee ligament damage – another devastating blow to the Carlisle manager’s injury-depleted squad.

Simek lasted until half-time in last weekend’s 3-1 FA Cup defeat to Bournemouth before he was replaced by Gjokaj, who came on for his debut after signing two weeks ago in a temporary deal until January 2.

Gjokaj was brought in to bolster the defensive line – already reeling from the loss of Peter Murphy – but with no recognised right-back apart from Simek, the 6ft 2in teenager will be asked to play out of position against the Blades.

Abbott said: “Val is a centre-half and he was playing 20 yards wider than he would normally do, but we knew he would compete. He did OK and I think he’s got good qualities.

“Frank is the type of player we haven’t got a ready-made replacement for so it’s really frustrating for us at the moment.

“With us not having an ideal alternative choice to play right-back we played Val because we didn’t have any other options.”

Gjokaj’s first-team involvement at Derby has been limited to just one appearance since his summer move to Pride Park from FC Lucerne as he has been kept out of the Rams’ team by former Carlisle defender Richard Keogh.

The highly-rated teenager previously had trials with Newcastle and Blackburn.

Carlisle are also set to be without James Berrett on Saturday after the midfielder pulled up in training last Friday with a groin strain that forced him to miss Saturday’s defeat.

Skipper Paul Thirlwell returned from a month on the sidelines to replace Berrett.

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